Northrop Grumman has been awarded a $130 million USAF contract
to support Japan's Global Hawk program. The order calls for the sourcing of long lead material to initiate the program for three RQ-4 Global Hawk
block 30 (I) UAVs, in addition to two ground control elements, enhanced integrated sensor suite, spares, and a site survey. Work will be performed in San Diego, California, and is expected to be complete by July 27, 2018. In November 2015, Japan was cleared by the US State Department for the $1.2 billion sale of Global Hawk aircraft. Between May and October this year, the USAF had five RQ-4 Global Hawks stationed at Yokota Air Base
in Japan to provide a base from which the platform can be reliably operated during the summer. Tensions in the region have been high amid North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear testing, which has seen test rockets fly over Japanese airspace.
Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV has established a dominant position in the High Altitude/ Long Endurance UAV market. While they are not cheap, they are uniquely capable. During Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), the system flew only 5% of the US Air Force’s high altitude reconnaissance sorties, but accounted for more than 55% of the time-sensitive targeting imagery generated to support strike missions. The RQ-4 Global Hawk was also a leading contender in the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAV competition, and eventually won.
The Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration Program (GHM-D or BAMS-D) aims to use the proven RQ-4 Global Hawk airframe as a test bed for operational concepts and technologies that will eventually find their way into BAMS, and contribute valuable understanding to the new field of maritime surveillance with high-flying UAVs. It’s not just a test program, however, as its remaining drones also deploy to assist the fleet in active operations.