The US Department of Defense approved engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) and low-rate initial production of the Northrop Grumman RQ-4A Global Hawk unmanned air vehicle (UAV) on 6 March.


The high altitude, long endurance aircraft is the largest UAV yet approved for production. The vehicle has already flown non-stop from the USA to Europe and back and is being prepared for a mission to Australia.

The Acquisition Defense Memorandum endorses an estimated 12 months of EMD and fabrication of an initial six Block 5 production RQ-4As for the US Air Force, two launch/recovery elements and two mission control elements (MCE). MCE procurement is limited to five units until the USAF has finished trade-off studies between additional MCEs or uses the funds to accelerate development of an improved Block 10 configuration and deployment of Global Hawk sensors and systems.

Two Global Hawks will be funded per year until 2008 when the production rate will double. Production of at least 60 RQ-4As is planned for basic surveillance missions, but additional units could be built for other assignments, including signals intelligence and communications relay. Northrop Grumman is capable of building 10 RQ-4As annually, and would like to provide the USAF with at least 100. The RQ-4A will be available for limited operations in fiscal year 2003.

Source: Flight International