Global Hawk Drone from Northrop not ‘Operationally Effective’, says Pentagon

According to the Pentagon’s top weapons tester, a new version of Northrop Grumman Corp’s Global Hawk drone is “not operationally effective for conducting near-continuous, persistent” intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions that it was designed to conduct.

The system “is not operationally suitable,” the report states. “Global Hawk long endurance flights do not routinely provide persistent ISR coverage due to low air vehicle reliability.”

The RQ-4B Global Hawk Block 30 was capable of providing only about 40 percent of requested coverage when flying two or three sorties a week, using three aircraft, during a testing period from October through December, according to the May 27 report signed by J. Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s director of operational test and evaluation.

“Mission-critical components fail at high rates, resulting in poor takeoff reliability, high air abort rates, low mission capable rates, an excessive demand for critical spare parts and a high demand for maintenance support,” the report said.

The test report was needed before approval of full production. The Pentagon had scheduled a production meeting for this month.

“We are working with our customer on a coordinated response and have no immediate comment,” Brandon R. “Randy” Belote, vice president of strategic communications for Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman.

Another Northrop Grumman spokeswoman, Margaret Mitchell- Jones, said the company would not address specifics but was working with the Air Force “to ensure RQ-4 Global Hawk meets its costs and capability requirements.”

An Air Force spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Jack Miller, said the test results “will help the Air Force and Northrop Grumman implement the improvements that will increase Global Hawk’s value.”

Source: Bloomberg

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