Global hawk

The US Department of Defence has awarded a $3.2bn contract to Northrop Grumman to support all the US Air Force (USAF) variants of the Global Hawk unmanned surveillance aircraft.

This contract will allow Northrop to continue development, modernisation, retrofit, and sustainment activities for the aircraft.

The latest deal will allow the USAF to order parts and services as required through till September 2020.

Under the contract, Northrop will provide management, including programme, business and technical areas; engineering efforts, including configuration management, data management, reliability, availability and maintainability; and related areas of concern such as technical refresh, and diminishing manufacturing sources among others.

Work under this umbrella contract is scheduled to be completed by September 2025.

Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the primary contracting activity base, while Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, may place orders against this contract.

With the new development, the USAF is expected to upgrade the Global Hawk aircraft before the force retires its aging fleet of Lockheed Martin-built manned U-2 spy planes, reported Reuters.

The Global Hawk UAS is designed to provide field commanders with high-resolution, near real-time imagery of large geographic areas in support of military, humanitarian and environmental missions.

The remotely piloted UAS has been used by the USAF during wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, in addition to supporting intelligence gathering and reconnaissance efforts after the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan.

The new development comes after the USAF planned to retire most of the Global Hawk planes due to the high cost.

In May, USAF RQ-4 Global Hawk achieved Milestone C approval from the Defense Acquisition Executive.

This certification enabled the USAF to proceed with the modernisation activity.

Image: RQ-4 Block 10 Global Hawk flying over mountains. Photo: courtesy of Northrop Grumman Corporation.