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15 Apr 03. Northrop Grumman Corp.(NYSE:NOC – News) on Tuesday said its Global Hawk was performing well in the U.S. war in Iraq, but said details about its performance were classified.

“It has been flying in support as much as we can keep them in the air,” Tim Beard, who heads business development for the company’s unmanned systems, told reporters at the Navy League’s annual Sea-Air-Space Exposition in Washington.

He could not say how many of four existing Air Force Global Hawks were now deployed in the Gulf, but noted that one plane had logged a turnaround time between flights of just 8 hours. Global Hawk flies at altitudes above 60,000 feet and stays aloft for more than 24 hours on each flight, sweeping the ground with a powerful radar system and then relaying the pictures back to command posts, Beard said. Top Pentagon officials in December approved an acquisition plan that calls for the Air Force to buy a total of 51 Global Hawks by 2011 at a cost of $5.5bn.

The U.S. Navy is conducting a large exercise with two specially outfitted Global Hawks, which will include 360-degree radar sensors, in mid-2005 as part of a program to expand surveillance of broad maritime areas. Northrop said it hopes the Navy is so impressed with Global Hawk that it proceeds to select the aircraft for its Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Program.

Northrop’s main competition for that program is the General Atomics Predator B
The per unit “fly-away” cost of the Global Hawk was $24.3m , including the radar package, but excluding research and development costs. Northrop is due to deliver three Global Hawks to the U.S. military in 2003, with that number rising to 4 per year until 2007, when the plane goes into full scale production.

Northrop said it expects Global Hawk sales to reach 250 to 300 units by 2020, with customers to include the U.S. military, as well as NATO countries, Australia and Japan.

Beard said a planned demonstration of Global Hawk in Germany had been postponed due to the war. He could not say when it would be rescheduled. He said talks were also going well with Australia, which is considering buying “a couple” of Global Hawks that would combine capabilities developed for the Air Force and newer features that Northrop is developing for the U.S. Navy. Japan was also exploring the possibility of purchasing 20 to 30 of the surveillance planes, he said.

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