Northrop Grumman Defends the Global Hawk
Responding to public complaints from Pentagon officials about the cost and progress of the Global Hawk program, Northrop Grumman has provided a robust defense. In briefings at the Farnborough airshow followed by the AUVSI (Association for Unmanned Systems International) show in Denver last month, company officials made detailed comparisons with the cost of using manned platforms for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. According to Gene Fraser, v-p of Northrop’s aerospace systems sector, it costs nearly five times as much per-orbit-hour to fly the U-2 as the Global Hawk. The U.S. Air Force plans to deploy the high-altitude UAV to two new locations in the next few weeks: Guam in the Pacific and Sigonella, Italy. From these locations, the Global Hawk can replace the U-2s that still fly operational ISR missions over Korea and the Near East, respectively. However, the UAV has not yet formally passed its initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E), despite having been deployed continuously to the UAE for flights over Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. The key IOT&E milestone should be accomplished by the end of November, according to George Guerra, v-p for HALE Systems with Northrop Grumman. The U.S. Congress has refused to allow the U-2 to be retired until the USAF has demonstrated that the Global Hawk can provide an equivalent capability.