Upgraded Global Hawk UAV Achieves First Flight

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Farnborough UK (SPX) Jul 20, 2004
The first air vehicle in a new production lot of upgraded RQ-4A Global Hawk unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicles made its maiden flight on July 1. Designated AF-3, the newest Global Hawk flew from Northrop Grumman Corporation’s manufacturing facility in Palmdale, Calif., to the Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base.

The four-hour flight was flawless, adding to a long list of accomplishments for the U.S. Air Force’s Global Hawk. Northrop Grumman is the Air Force’s Global Hawk prime contractor.

“The first flight of AF-3 is a significant milestone for Global Hawk because it will be the first air vehicle from Lot 2 to be delivered to the Air Force with several combat-proven upgrades integrated into the system,” said Carl O. Johnson, Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk vice president and integrated product team leader.

AF-3 is part of Lot 2 of Global Hawk low-rate initial production. Northrop Grumman expects to deliver the air vehicle to the Air Force later this month. The company also expects to deliver the first production launch-recovery element next month.

Production Lot 1, which includes two air vehicles and one mission-control element, is nearing completion. Northrop Grumman expects to finish Lot 1 on schedule and cost. Production Lot 2 is well underway with deliveries scheduled for both the Air Force and the U.S. Navy.

The Global Hawk system has recently surpassed the 4,000 flight hours mark through its deployments to Florida, Australia, Germany, and three deployments to support the war on terrorism, which account for 2,000 of those hours

To date, Northrop Grumman has received more than $2.3 billion in related design, development, testing and production contracts. This month, the company will begin production of the next-generation Global Hawk air vehicle, designated the RQ-4B, at its Antelope Valley Manufacturing Center in Palmdale, Calif.

The RQ-4B will accommodate a 50 percent increase in payload weight, and will feature a larger wingspan (130.9 feet), a longer fuselage (47.6 feet) and a new generator that can deliver 150 percent more electrical power. Northrop Grumman plans to deliver the first three RQ-4B air vehicles in 2006 as part of LRIP Lot 3.