Northrop Grumman eyes UK Global Hawk sale

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Northrop Grumman is looking at innovative financing options in an effort to further its "aspiration" of selling Global Hawk unmanned air systems to the UK, despite looming cuts to the country's defence budget.

The US company expects to hold discussions with UK Ministry of Defence officials at this month's Farnborough air show about the potential use of the Global Hawk to meet UK surveillance requirements.

Ian Milne, Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems vice-president for the UK, Scandinavia and the Baltics, says the company is prepared to look at a service-provision arrangement as the UK's tight defence budget may preclude an outright sale.

northrop grumman global hawk northrop grumman
 © Northrop Grumman
Could the Global Hawk meet the UK's Scavenger requirements

The large UAV platform is being offered in competition with several others to meet the UK's Scavenger requirement, which seeks a persistent intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance capability to enter use from around 2015 to 2018.

The Global Hawk has already been selected by NATO, and the Euro Hawk version being developed together with EADS to meet Germany's signals intelligence needs recently had its first flight.

"If you look at the range of roles that the Global Hawk is currently doing, from broad area maritime surveillance using SAR/GMTI radars, to SIGINT packages, to lots of other things, there may well be an opportunity in the future if the UK decides a substantial UAV could take on some of these roles," says Milne.

For a UK acquisition of Global Hawk, he says there are "innovative business models we could consider, rather than saying 'here is the unit price, goodbye'. Maybe we could do some form of power-by-the-hour, or surveillance-by-the-square-kilometre. This is something that the company is going to have to offer if it is to address markets that are fiscally stretched, such as the UK."

Northrop believes that the long-endurance multi-intelligence vehicle hybrid airship - recently selected by the US Army - could also be a candidate for Scavenger. The company is partnered with UK-based Hybrid Air Vehicles for the project.

"That may be an opportunity in the UK, maybe for Scavenger or maybe something else," says Milne. "The MoD has shown a little interest."