US Air Force Global Hawk RQ-4 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
US Air Force Global Hawk RQ-4 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

Northrop Grumman Awarded $108 Million Contract for RQ-4 Global Hawk Sustainment

Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Sierra Vista, Arizona, has been awarded a not-to-exceed $108,843,273 bilateral modification to previously awarded undefinitized contract action FA8690-21-C-1001 for RQ-4 Global Hawk aircraft sustainment. The modification provides for a second year of contractor logistics support services. Work will be performed in the Republic of Korea, and Sierra Vista, Arizona, and is expected to be completed by Feb. 29, 2024. Foreign military sale funds in the amount of $22,888,481 are being obligated at the time of award, and the total cumulative face value of the contract is $267,233,297. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity.

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 RQ-4 provides a broad overview and systematic surveillance using high-resolution synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and 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 per day, an area the size of South Korea or Iceland. It is used as a High-Altitude Long Endurance platform covering the spectrum of intelligence collection capability to support forces in worldwide military operations.

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Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV
Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV

Following the September 11th attacks, the normal acquisition process was bypassed almost immediately and early developmental Global Hawk models were employed in overseas contingency operations beginning in November 2001. Global Hawk ACTD prototypes were used in the War in Afghanistan and in the Iraq War. Since April 2010, they fly the Northern Route, from Beale Air Force Base over Canada to South-East Asia and back, reducing flight time and improving maintenance. Initial operational capability was declared for the RQ-4 Block 30 in August 2011. The USAF did not plan to keep the RQ-4B Block 30 in service past 2014 due to the U-2 and other platforms being less expensive in the role; but Congress sought to keep it in service until December 2016. By November 2012, Northrop Grumman had delivered 37 Global Hawks to the USAF. In March 2014, 42 Global Hawks are in use around the world, with 32 in use by the USAF.

In 2011, South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) expressed interest in acquiring at least four RQ-4Bs to increase intelligence capabilities following the exchange of the Wartime Operational Control from the U.S. to the Republic of Korea. However, in December 2012, South Korea notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale of 4 RQ-4 Block 30 (I) Global Hawks with the Enhanced Integrated Sensor Suite (EISS) at an estimated cost of $1.2 billion. On 5 July 2013, the Korean National Assembly advised the government to re-evaluate the RQ-4 purchase, again citing high costs. On 17 December 2014, Northrop Grumman was awarded a $657 million contract by South Korea for four RQ-4B Block 30 Global Hawks. The first RQ-4 arrived on 23 December 2019 at a base near Sacheon. The remaining three RQ-4s are to be delivered in the first half of 2020.

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