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A Block 40 Global Hawk makes its first flight

NGC and USAF's next-generation of Global Hawk UAS takes flight

The first Block 40 configuration of the RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) successfully completed its first flight on Nov. 16. Designated AF-18, the advanced capability aircraft flew for approximately two hours from Northrop Grumman Corporation's (NYSE: NOC) manufacturing facility in Palmdale, Calif., to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

"AF-18, the eleventh of the next-generation Global Hawk Block 20/30/40s to arrive at Edwards Air Force Base, performed beautifully," said George Guerra, Northrop Grumman vice president of HALE systems. "This flight marks the continuation of our Global Hawk flight test program, and is a testament to the team comprised of people from Northrop Grumman and the Air Force who have worked so hard to make this happen."

This first flight also marks the end of an era, as Global Hawk production acceptance activities will transition in the near future from Edwards Air Force Base to Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, improving efficiency and flow of company products. In addition to AF-18, a Block 30 aircraft, AF-19, was recently delivered to the Air Force and is one of 11 major deliveries by the program within the last three months.

Steve Amburgey, Global Hawk program director for the 303d Aeronautical Systems Group at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, noted that the flight of this aircraft is a significant milestone for the Global Hawk program.

"AF-18 is the first of 15 Block 40 Global Hawk aircraft scheduled for fielding to Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota, in 2010," said Amburgey. "The aircraft will carry an advanced, all-weather multi-platform radar technology insertion program (MP-RTIP) sensor, providing game-changing situational awareness for our warfighters with its unprecedented capability to detect, track and identify stationary and moving targets."

Global Hawk's range, endurance and large payload capabilities are well suited to provide persistent surveillance of the enemy with MP-RTIP. Flying at altitudes up to 60,000 feet for more than 32 hours per sortie at speeds approaching 340 knots, the MP-RTIP-equipped Block 40 Global Hawk can persistently see through most type of weather, day or night. As the world's first fully autonomous HALE UAS, Global Hawk is the platform of choice for a wide variety of sensors, foreign and domestic, meeting the global need for persistent ISR.

Press release issued by Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems on December 9, 2009


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