The Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman [NOC] a $354 million contract to expand its RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system fleet to 37 aircraft and to bring additional multi-intelligence capability.

The contract includes three aircraft equipped with the multi-INT sensors, which include imaging and electronic signals sensors capable of collecting multiple types of intelligence from high altitudes for up to 32 hours, according to a company news release.

RQ-4 Global Hawk Photo: Northrop Grumman
RQ-4 Global Hawk
Photo: Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman will also deliver retrofit kits to add the Airborne Signals Intelligence Payload (ASIP) sensors to two Global Hawks already in the fleet, providing them the same mulit-INT capability as the new aircraft.

The three new Global Hawks are scheduled for delivery in 2017, and the retrofit kits in late 2016 and 2017.

“Northrop Grumman is proud that the RQ-4 Global Hawk has become an indispensable ISR resource for the Air Force. These new systems will provide further opportunities to keep our warfighters safe,” Mick Jaggers, Global Hawk program manager, said in the company news release. “Even as Global Hawk flight hours increase each year, we are striving to reduce the overall operating cost of the system for the Air Force. The Air Force’s commitment to putting more Global Hawks in the air and our dedication to meeting affordability agreements for production and sustainment ensure that this vital asset will remain sustainable and viable for many years.”