Northrop Grumman's Global Hawk Block 30 aircraft
The Pentagon is cancelling orders for Northrop Grumman’s third-generation Global Hawk Block 30 surveillance aircraft, the company said Thursday.
The company continues to deliver Block 40 planes, which have additional sensor capabilities and other modifications for high-altitude surveillance. But Thursday’s announcement indicated that a hard-fought public relations campaign by Northrop Grumman to save its Block 30 program had fallen short.
The unmanned spy planes are assembled at Palmdale’s Plant 42 and are served by 312 suppliers in 42 states, including nine in Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon’s 25 congressional district. McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, chairs the House Armed Services Committee and co-chairs the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus.
“Northrop Grumman is disappointed with the Pentagon’s decision and plans to work with the Pentagon to assess alternatives to program termination,” a company statement said.
It said the Pentagon has decided to continue using Lockheed’s high-altitude, Cold War-era U-2 spy planes that first flew from Area 51 in 1955. The Global Hawks, which are flight-tested at Edwards Air Force Base, were supposed to replace them.
“Global Hawk is the modern solution to providing surveillance,” Northrop Gruman’s statement said. “It provides long duration persistent surveillance, and collects information using multiple sensors on the platform. In contrast, the aging U-2 program, first introduced in the 1950s, places pilots in danger, has limited flight duration, and provides limited sensor capacity.”
Northrop-Grumman’s statement noted that “just a few months ago,” a Pentagon report called the Global Hawk Block 30 program “essential to the national security” and said there are “no alternatives to the program which will provide acceptable capability to meet the joint military requirement at less cost.”
The cancellation comes in the wake of published reports of cost overruns and flight-test failures.
Northrup-Grumman was waging public relations campaign to fight what it called “misinformation being spread in the press.”
“The combat-proven U.S. Air Force Global Hawk (Block 30) unmanned aircraft is the most affordable and capable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance system available to our troops on the ground, in the air, and at sea,” the company’s website claims. “From using advanced sensors to monitor damage after Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, to providing warfighters with critical real-time data in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, Global Hawk enables countries around the world to act decisively in times of conflict and crisis.”
NASA uses Global Hawks to spot fires and study hurricanes.
“Your support is urgently needed to help our troops continue to receive this much-needed capability,” Northrop-Grumman says, implores website visitors to e-mail members of Congress.