Northrop sees rising demand for Global Hawks

Northrop Grumman officials on Wednesday described a year of progress and ambitious plans for their high-flying, long-endurance Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle program, including possible additional foreign sales that would add to the more than 150 aircraft already built or under contract.

The officials said 2010 was the year "Global Hawk truly went global," with first flights of Air Force RQ-4s from two overseas bases, continued Air Force and Navy combat surveillance missions in the U.S. Central Command area, and advances in preparing the high-altitude drones for European allies.

George Guerra, vice president of the Northrop program, said the company also is in discussions with Japan on the possible purchase of four or five Global Hawks.

Meanwhile, Guerra said, the company is working closely with Air Force officials on more than 100 suggestions for addressing the concerns of Pentagon and Air Force acquisition executives over the growing cost of the program. Guerra said the initiatives being studied could reduce both production and sustainment costs to cut the overall price of the massive program, projected at more than $6 billion for just the Air Force effort.

Guerra would not quantify the possible savings pending the discussions with the Air Force.

Launched in the 1980s as a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program, Global Hawk experienced the all-too-common cost and schedule overruns. But the early developmental models were sent into combat, flying reconnaissance missions over Iraq. And the first group of aircraft, called Block 10s, are now flying missions over Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf.

With a fuselage the size of a large business jet's and wings longer than a 747's, the jet-powered aircraft can fly higher than 65,000 feet and stay airborne for more than 30 hours, carrying a variety of sophisticated radars and other sensors and transmitting the information by satellite.

Current Global Hawks have an estimated unit cost of more than $30 million. But the Government Accountability Office said the aircraft cost $130 million when the expense of development, testing, and ground support stations is included.

Guerra said the Air Force Global Hawks and a Block 10 aircraft bought by the Navy as a demonstrator for its Broad Area Maritime Surveillance program have amassed more than 37,000 hours of combat missions.

And, he noted, Air Force RQ-4s deployed to Guam and to Sigonella Naval Air Station in Sicily had their first flights this year, preparing for operational missions. The Navy also will use those bases for its maritime surveillance missions, which will reduce the operating costs for both services.

Northrop has built improved and enlarged Block 20 Global Hawks for the Air Force, is producing two even more sophisticated Air Force models, and has begun assembly of the first BAMS for the Navy.

The firm also is preparing an aircraft for a flight to Germany, where it will be matched with European-made sensors in the EuroHawk program. In addition, Northrop is building the first of at least six Global Hawks for NATO.

Several other allied countries, including Korea and Australia, have expressed interest in the Global Hawk.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.