Grob's HALE Project
Although GROB-Werke is a relatively small Bavarian company best known for producing trainer aircraft, GROB have also built two unique high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft, the G520T Egret and the G850 Strato 2C. Only six G520T Egret’s were built, four remain in service in the USA where they are employed by various government agencies, such as the CIA and DEA, during operational activities as high-level radio relay stations and platforms for electro-optical sensors and ELINT packages. One Egret is based in Australia, although the nature of it’s current employment is unknown. The final Egret is now in the GROB Museum at Mindelheim. Only one G850 Strato 2C was produced for the German Defence Ministry and it was designed to operate up to 78,000ft for up to 48 hrs carrying a number of unspecified sensors. Unfortunately the end of the Cold War put paid to the role the Strato C was built for and the aircraft never entered service – today it also resides at the GROB Museum at Mindelheim.
GROB have never given up their plan to build a successful High-Altitude Long-Endurance (HALE) product and have decided to try and compete with the successful Northrop Grumman Global Hawk. This June at the Paris Air Show GROB unveiled a stretched version of its G180 SPn business jet, designed as a manned or unmanned high altitude surveillance and communications platform, known as the GROB HALE G 600. The aft section of the basic G180 fuselage will be extended and fitted with a new 116.8ft span high aspect ratio all composite wing and the aircraft will be powered by two Williams FJ44-4A engines each producing 3,500 lbs of thrust. The G600 will be capable of carrying a payload of cameras, IR systems and various other sensors depending on the mission requirements, up to a maximum weight of 2,650lbs. With a maximum take-off weight of 17,100lbs the G600 would be capable of with a two man crew for up to 17hrs at altitudes up to 65,000ft and have a range of about 5540nms. With four additional 1,000 litre fuel tanks installed in the rear fuselage, the G600 Extended Range (ER) would have a range of around 11,340nms, giving two G600ER the ability to cover any point in the globe.
GROB have stated that they have received ‘substantial’ European military interest in the G600 and they are marketing this proposal on the basis that it would cost 90% less than a Global Hawk. If the company secures just one launch customer it estimates that it would be able to fly the aircraft within 13 months and then secure full certification and customer delivery within another 11 months. The GROB G600 is certainly a relatively low-cost solution for countries seeking a HALE platform for surveillance and communications duties. However, as an manned, unarmed and relatively slow aircraft, it is very debateable whether it could be seriously considered for use over a hostile country and is better suited for border surveillance. Whether the G600 will ever be produced is another matter and, if it is, I suspect the numbers built will be small and it could well end up like the Egret – as yet another unusual, but ultimately un-commercial GROB design.