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Next-Generation Global Hawk Makes Maiden Flight


SAN DIEGO - Northrop Grumman has publically announced that the first RQ-4 Block 20 Global Hawk unmanned aerial system successfully completed its first flight on March 1, adding to an already impressive list of program accomplishments. Designated AF-8, the advanced capability aircraft flew from Northrop Grumman Corporation’s (NYSE:NOC) manufacturing facility in Palmdale, Calif., to the Birk Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

“The Block 20 Global Hawk performed beautifully,” said Randy Brown, Global Hawk Program Director with the U.S. Air Force’s 303rd Aeronautical Systems Group at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, following the flight. “What a great start for the flight test program, and a testament to the people of Northrop Grumman who have worked so hard to make this happen.”

“The first flight of the Block 20 Global Hawk is a momentous event because, for the first time, we are seeing the debut of an aircraft with all the next-generation attributes and advanced capabilities - including a 15-foot-wider wingspan, a redesigned and strengthened fuselage and a 3,000-pound internal payload capacity - combined in an impressive package,” said Gary Ervin, sector vice president for Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems sector. “With its unmatched intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, the Global Hawk is the most advanced and most capable high altitude long endurance (HALE) air vehicle in the world.”

Jerry Madigan, Northrop Grumman vice president of HALE systems, noted that the aircraft has continued to meet or exceed expectations during its assembly and pre-flight checkouts. “The Block 20 variants will enter service as one of the most thoroughly tested and proven autonomous unmanned aerial system in history, completely rewriting the book on unmanned aircraft assembly, precision and quality,” said Madigan.

The first Block 20 aircraft is the 17th Global Hawk air vehicle to be built. Northrop Grumman produced the first seven air vehicles under the advanced concept technology demonstration phase of the program. Nine Block 10 aircraft have been produced, including the two aircraft supporting the global war on terrorism and two U.S. Navy aircraft operated under the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration program. Global Hawk has been deployed to the operational theater four times since 2001 and has logged more than 9,000 flight hours during combat missions.

The Global Hawk system flies at altitudes up to 65,000 feet and can survey vast geographic regions with pinpoint accuracy. Once mission parameters are programmed into Global Hawk, the vehicle can take off, fly, return and land autonomously. It can be re-tasked at a moment’s notice to meet the immediate intelligence needs of battlefield commanders.

The Block 20 will be delivered to the Air Force’s 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base near Sacramento, Calif.


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