The US Air Force is negotiating a sole-source award to Rolls-Royce for the evolution of its AE3007H turbofan engine to provide additional growth margins for later series production of its Northrop Grumman RQ-4B Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned air vehicles.

A pre-solicitation notice released on 5 September by the Air Force Materiel Command says the project is concentrating on "sustainment of commonality with commercial item line and potential performance improvements".

The initial contract award is expected to be for no more than $4.5 million in fiscal year 2006, but the solicitation says that "additional funding is possible in future years". The financing stems from Congressional plus-ups approved earlier this year.

Around $1 million of the initial award will be passed on to Northrop to support Global Hawk integration planning for the modified powerplant. The current production AE3007H, as fitted to the Block 20 Global Hawk, is rated at 8,290lb (36.8kN).

The first Block 20 production aircraft was handed over last month and is due to enter operational service late this year.

Source: Flight International