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Global Hawk Block 40- Fiscal Casualty?

Written by on Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

With budgets becoming leaner and leaner, every Department of Defense (DOD) acquisition program that is considered at risk for exceeding costs or exceeding schedule or is under performing toward requirements is in the crosshairs to become cancelled and the Global Hawk Block 40 is no exception.

The Global Hawk is designed and built by Northrop Grumman for the United States Air Force with the mission of providing long endurance Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) collection of targets at significant stand-off ranges. The Global Hawk Block 20 is currently serving in combat operations and provides critical electro-optical and infrared images to theater commanders. In addition to the Block 20’s sensor package, the Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) is capable of providing signals intelligence by monitoring the battlefield for emissions. The Block 20 has also been modified to carry a communications relay called the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) which acts as a translator for various networks being used in the battlefield and provides line-of-sight communications for warfighters that might be geographically limited.

The Block 30 provides an Advanced Signals Intelligence Payload that is more capable than the Block 20 signals intelligence package but overall the Block 30 Global Hawk was criticized for not integrating a more powerful engine to keep up with ever growing demands of the payload weights. The Block 30 is also valium buy 10mg expected to fall victim to budget cuts as the remaining 10 to be built are expected to be terminated. Likewise, the Global Hawk Block 40 may be cancelled before it really begins development.

The Global Hawk Block 40 was planned to be installed with a Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP) sensor that was designed to track moving ground targets and relay the information to soldiers on the ground but the maturity of the radar has been slow. As budgets become leaner and at an estimated cost of $35 million for the Global Hawk Block 40, USAF planners are looking to cancel the program and move funds to support the Joint Strike Fighter F-35 development program and fill the ISR role with the U-2 spyplane that has been operational since the 1950s.

With “war budgets” running dry, every DOD program is under the microscope to determine if the Pentagon is getting a return on their investment and with a lofty price tag, development that’s behind schedule and performance that can be replaced by other platforms, the USAF has asked Congress to cancel any further purchases of the Global Hawk Block 40. “Lean” is the buzzword for current and future acquisition programs and until budgets are brought under control, programs should be weary of the “budgeteer’s axe”.


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