Fast spying

Published: Saturday 31 May 1997

A spy plane that can scrutinise a country the size of Switzerland in two days from an attitude of 19,760m has been unveiled by the US Defence Department. Pentagon chiefs say it is likely to be used above the reach of enemy craft to guide a low-attitude unmanned spy plane, already undergoing tests, that would then use its stealth design to sneak through enemy radar unnoticed. The plane, called Global Hawk, is designed to help American military to keep tabs on large areas of hostile terrain. The plane will be able to cover about 40,000 square nautical miles of territory in each 42-hour mission. A new radar capable of penetrating trees and other foliage may also be on the plane.

Global Hawk will use communications satellites to send more than 274 Mb of data per second to ground-control stations. Photographs relayed to a control centre will show up any objects on the ground more than three feet long.

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