UAS & Robotics

Air Force awards deal to fix some Global Hawk software

Global Hawk UAV

The Air Force has awarded Northrop Grumman a $16.2 million contract modification to fix software used in the Global Hawk unmanned aircraft’s ground stations.

The modification, to a $45.8 million contract awarded in 2011, will build off existing ground station software and correct “reported deficiencies,” according to the Defense Department’s contract announcement. Work is expected to be completed by December 2016.

The Global Hawk, which took its first flight in 1998, has had a bit of an up-and-down history with the Air Force. Despite being widely used in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Air Force wanted to get rid of it as recently as last year.

Back in May 2011, a Pentagon review determined that the Block 30 version of the Global Hawk (the one currently in use) was “not operationally effective” and in August that year, the Air Force suspended operational testing of the UAV because of command and control software deficiencies.

Another concern for service officials was cost—they wanted to scrap the Global Hawk in favor of the venerable manned U-2 spy plane. Congress balked, however, insisting that the UAV program stay in the mix. And earlier this year, the Air Force agreed, saying that the per-hour costs of the UAV had finally dropped below that of the U-2. The Air Force now says it plans to spend up to $4 billion on the Global Hawk between 2016 and 2020.

Defense Systems Update

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