The U.S. has made a formal offer to Korea of four Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 UAVs, in a package valued at $1.2 billion. The notification to Congress states, “The Republic of Korea needs this intelligence and surveillance capability to assume primary responsibility for intelligence-gathering from the U.S.-led Combined Forces Command in 2015.” The U.S. Air Force currently flies the high-altitude mission over and around the Korean peninsula using three Lockheed Martin U-2s based at Osan Airbase.
The proposed sale would include Raytheon’s enhanced integrated sensor suite (EISS), comprising synthetic aperture and ground moving target indicator (GMTI) radar plus EO/IR imaging. An unspecified signals intelligence sensor would be provided as well. The package would also include the communications system; mission control and launch-and-recovery ground stations; and an imagery exploitation system. “Korea will have no difficulty absorbing these systems into its armed forces,” the notification said.
The Block 30 version of the Global Hawk recently received a reprieve from the U.S. Congress, which reversed the Pentagon’s plan to retire the U.S. Air Force fleet because of high acquisition and operating costs, and a dwindling requirement for high-altitude ISR, which the Pentagon has said could be adequately met by keeping the manned U-2s in service longer. Northrop Grumman has been marketing the Global Hawk in Korea for more than two years, but has faced competition from lower-cost Israeli systems such as the IAI Heron TP and the Elbit Hermes 900.
U.S. Air Force Global Hawks have flown over the Korean peninsula, but these missions have taken off and landed at Anderson AFB, Guam, because of an inability to integrate the climb and descent of large UAVs in Korean airspace.