Programme budget jumps to $629 million, with plans for development of naval variant

The US Department of Defense is planning to boost funding for the Northrop Grumman RQ-4A Global Hawk programme to $629 million next year, including provision to develop a naval variant, as production funding for the same company's Fire Scout tactical unmanned rotorcraft is axed beyond low rate initial production (LRIP).

The prospect of the US Navy joining the Global Hawk programme opens the door to a more economical annual production run that could produce savings of 10-20% based on building 10 unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) a year, says the manufacturer. "More economical ordering could produce savings that would benefit both the navy and air force," says Carl Johnson, Northrop Grumman Global Hawk director and programme manager.

Northrop Grumman has received a $101 million contract for the first two LRIP Global Hawks and a mission control element for delivery to the US Air Force next year. The DoD's fiscal year 2003 budget includes $170 million to raise output to three UAVs, but this is short of what Northrop Grumman says is an economical number.


The FY03 budget contains $152 million to begin work on a naval variant. The USN has opened talks with the USAF to order two Global Hawks as part of a planned second LRIP. The navy wants to use two vehicles to assess potential missions and sensor payloads for a maritime UAV in 2004.

The first two naval Global Hawks will be based on the Block 5 configuration equipped with a Raytheon electro-optical, infrared and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) suite. USN interest is in the additional capabilities demonstrated during last year's Global Hawk deployment to Australia, including moving target indicator radar, inverse SAR and wide-area surveillance. The UAV also featured an LR100 receiver to demonstrate a basic electronic intelligence capability.

The USN's Lockheed Martin P-3 Orions replacement plans include a UAV as an adjunct to the manned Maritime Multi-mission aircraft (MMA) and Northrop Grumman has conducted a broad area maritime surveillance study using Global Hawk. The draft requirements include provision for control of UAV sensors and this may be broadened to include control of flight.

Source: Flight International