Northrop Grumman lands $4.8bn Global Hawk development contract

The US Department of Defense (DoD) announced on November 25 that it has awarded Northrop Grumman a US$4.8bn contract to develop, modernise, retrofit and sustain the US Air Force’s (USAF’s) RQ-4 Global Hawk family.

The ten-year indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract is expected to be completed on September 30, 2030, with work being performed by Northrop Grumman in San Diego, California. Under which, the firm will provide development, modernisation, retrofit and sustainment services for each USAF-operated variant of the high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS).

USAF RQ-4B (Block 40) [Northrop Grumman]
A USAF-operated Northrop Grumman RQ-4B (Block 40) Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) in flight. The Global Hawk is employed as an all-weather, day or night intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform. Northrop Grumman

The DoD states that “this contract provides for management, including programme, business and technical areas.” It adds that engineering efforts, including configuration and data management, reliability, availability, maintainability and “related areas of concern such as technical refresh [and] diminishing manufacturing sources” will be addressed under the contract.

The deal also provides for studies/ analyses; design, development, integration, test and evaluation; training; interoperability support; contract/production line closeout/shutdown; overseas contingency operations support; sparing; fielding; and other support services.

AirForces Intelligence data states that, as of November 30, 2020, the USAF operates 31 RQ-4 Global Hawks, comprised of 20 RQ-4B (Block 30s) and 11 RQ-4B (Block 40s). The former entered operational service in 2011, followed by the latter in 2013.