UAS & Robotics

Air Force orders 3 more Global Hawk UAVs

Air Force Global Hawk UAV

The Air Force has awarded Northrop Grumman a $240.6 million contract modification for three more Block 30M RQ-4B Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles, each with an Enhanced Integrated Sensor Suite and an Airborne Signals Intelligence Payload (ASIP), the Defense Department announced.

Northrop also will deliver two extra ASIP sensors for retrofitting, which brings the total value of the contract to $355 million.

The Global Hawk is a long-range, high altitude UAV that provides intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance over large swaths of area. In addition to ASIP, Block 30 aircraft also are equipped with an Enhanced Integrated Sensor Suite and other ISR tools.

It can fly for up to 32 hours at altitudes as high as 60,000 feet, giving it a range of 12,300 nautical miles. In addition to ISR, it also can provide communication capabilities.

The Air Force for several years had wanted to abandon the Global Hawk in favor of the venerable U2 spy plane, which had cost less to operate. Congress, however, insisted on keeping the UAVs in the air. The service’s position was reversed earlier this year in the Air Force’s 2015 budget request, which plans to spend on the Global Hawk and retire the U2. Air Force officials said that the operating costs for the Global Hawk had come down, to the point that it was now cheaper to fly it than the U2.


About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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