An RQ-4B Global Hawk takes off for the first time from Palmdale, California, April 15, 2021. It is the first of three to be operated by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. (Northrop Grumman)
The maker of the US military’s longest-range unmanned surveillance aircraft will receive nearly $ 40 million to develop software for the RQ-4 Global Hawks operated by Japan and South Korea.
The contract, awarded to San Diego-based Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, is worth $ 39.9 million for work on the two countries’ drones as part of the Foreign Military Sales program that the Defense Department has announced. September 1.
Northrop Grumman manufactures the planes, which have been in service with the Air Force since 2001.
The Foreign Military Sales program authorizes the sale of arms and services to other countries when the agreements strengthen the security of the United States and promote world peace.
South Korea has four Global Hawks that allegedly took off from Sacheon Air Base near the Port of Busan, according to a report released in October by Jane’s Defense Weekly.
The first of three Japan Air Self-Defense Force Global Hawks will operate from Misawa Air Force Base in the northeast of the country, on its maiden flight to California in April.
The Northrop Grumman agreement provides for the co-development, testing and integration of software for the Global Hawk fleets of U.S. allies, according to the DOD announcement.
The work, which is expected to be completed by July 31, 2023, will be carried out in San Diego with integration efforts in Misawa and Sacheon, the announcement said.
The Global Hawk flies at 60,000 feet and has line of sight to targets over 340 miles, according to Northrop Grumman.
The aircraft’s exact range of cameras and sensors is classified, but a Global Hawk flying near the Korean Demilitarized Zone, for example, could see well beyond the Yalu River which marks the border between North Korea and North Korea. China.
A single RQ-4 costs around $ 130 million, according to Reuters news agency, citing industry sources in 2019.
The Air Force has positioned its own Global Hawks in Misawa for several summers since 2014. Drones come to Japan to avoid typhoons at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. In recent years, including 2020, they have operated from Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo during the summer.