South Korean media reported on April 13, 2018 that the United States Government had delayed the delivery of two Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned air vehicles until the first half of 2019, citing cyber security issues.
The Republic of Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported that Washington had notified the country’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) of the plan to delay delivery while the Global Hawks were modified to provide increased resistance to cyber-security threats.
South Korea was approved by the US Defense Security Co-operation Agency (DSCA) to acquire four RQ-4 Block 30 (I) Global Hawks and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support under a $1.2 billion deal. At the time the DSCA said that the Republic of Korea needed the intelligence and surveillance capability provided by the Global Hawk to: “Assume primary responsibility for intelligence gathering from the US led Combined Forces Command in 2015”. Equipment included the Enhanced Integrated Sensor Suite (EISS), which includes infrared/ electro-optical, synthetic aperture radar and ground moving target indicator systems, a mission control element, a launch and recovery element, a signals intelligence package and an imagery intelligence exploitation system.
The aircraft were ordered in 2014 and delivery of the first two had been expected to occur in the second half of 2018. Washington now says that all four aircraft will be handed over next year.
The media reports also suggest that deliveries of Global Hawks to the Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) and NATO’s AGS (Alliance Ground Surveillance) programme, a derivative of the wide-area surveillance RQ-4, have also been delayed for a similar amount of time while cyber security patches are incorporated. Nigel Pittaway