Northrop Grumman awarded $3.2bn unmanned aircraft contract by US Air Force

Northrop Grumman has been awarded a $3.2bn contract by the US Air Force for the development, modernization, retrofit and sustainment activities for all US Air Force variants of the RQ-4 Global Hawk un-manned surveillance plane.

The global security company will provide management as a part of an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract over the next 10 years.

Northrop Grumman will also provide engineering efforts and further management, including configuration management, data management, reliability, availability and maintainability; and related areas of concern such as technical refresh and diminishing manufacturing resources.

The Global Hawk is an unmanned aircraft intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft system capable of flying high altitudes for long hours, and gained popularity for military use based mainly on its ability to transform itself into an operational weapons system when required.

Northrop Grumman’s $3.2bn contracts ordering period ends on September 20, 2020.

Work will be undertaken by Northrop Grumman at its aerospace systems segment in San Diego, and is expected to be completed by September 30, 2025.

The contract was awarded on September 30, 2015, the last day of the federal fiscal year for 2015 – a time when many large contracts are let to clear up financial details at the end of the fiscal year.

By awarding the contract to Northrop Grumman, the US Air Force hopes to carry out the upgrades to the Global Hawk before it retires its aging fleet of manned U-2 spy planes built by Lockheed Martin.

The recent Northrop Grumman contract comes two years after the US Air Force made an unsuccessful attempt to retire most of the Global Hawk planes.