Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., San Diego, California, has been awarded a $4,800,000,000 indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for Global Hawk development, modernization, retrofit and sustainment activities for all Air Force Global Hawk variants. Additional, and more specific, guidance will be included within each individual delivery order/task order statement of work and performance work statement regarding these and other tasks. This contract provides flexibility to accommodate the broad enterprise of activities associated with the Global Hawk program. Work will be performed in San Diego, California, and is expected to be completed Sept. 30, 2030. This award is the result of a sole-source acquisition. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the primary contracting activity (FA8690-21-D-1009).
The Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk is a high-altitude, remotely-piloted, surveillance aircraft. It was initially designed by Ryan Aeronautical (now part of Northrop Grumman), and known as Tier II+ during development. The Global Hawk performs duties similar to that of the Lockheed U-2. The RQ-4 provides a broad overview and systematic surveillance using high-resolution synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and long-range electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors with long loiter times over target areas. It can survey as much as 40,000 square miles (100,000 km2) of terrain a day, an area the size of South Korea or Iceland.
The Global Hawk UAV system comprises the RQ-4 air vehicle, which is outfitted with various equipment such as sensor packages and communication systems; and a ground element consisting of a Launch and Recovery Element (LRE), and a Mission Control Element (MCE) with ground communications equipment. Each RQ-4 air vehicle is powered by an Allison Rolls-Royce AE3007H turbofan engine with 7,050 lbf (31.4 kN) thrust, and carries a payload of 2,000 pounds (910 kilograms). The fuselage uses aluminum, semi-monocoque construction with a V-tail; the wings are made of composite materials. There have been several iterations of the Global Hawk with different features and capabilities.
The Global Hawk is operated by the United States Air Force (USAF). It is used as a High-Altitude Long Endurance platform covering the spectrum of intelligence collection capability to support forces in worldwide military operations. According to the USAF, the superior surveillance capabilities of the aircraft allow more precise weapons targeting and better protection of friendly forces. Cost overruns led to the original plan to acquire 63 aircraft being cut to 45, and to a 2013 proposal to mothball the 21 Block 30 signals intelligence variants. The initial flyaway cost of each of the first 10 aircraft was US$10 million in 1994. By 2001 this had risen to US$60.9 million, and then to $131.4 million (flyaway cost) in 2013.