Asia Could Lead Global Hawk Sales
Having already supplied pricing, availability and technical data, Northrop Grumman is hopeful that in the coming weeks the Republic of Korea will sign a letter of acceptance concerning the acquisition of four RQ-4B Global Hawk HALE UAVs, paving the way for a formal request for proposal and contract signature. The potential sale was notified to U.S. Congress in December 2012, and is being conducted via government-to-government channels, with the U.S. Air Force as the contracting agency. South Korea has requested the Block 30 version of the Global Hawk, equipped with the EISS (enhanced integrated sensor suite) that comprises EO/IR sensor and SLAR/GMTI radar.
Northrop Grumman has also supplied pricing and availability data to Japan, which has gone public with its desire to acquire three Global Hawks. Although no formal application has yet been made over this sale, there is a strong possibility that it will proceed. Japan would likely receive Block 30 aircraft with the EISS, but also has expressed a requirement for signals intelligence capability. Japan’s own advanced electronics industry could provide the equipment to meet those needs.
Australia has also emerged as another nation that could produce sales for the Northrop Grumman UAV. The country took an early interest in the program, hosting a historic deployment of the aircraft to Adelaide in 2001. Subsequently a Global Hawk acquisition took a back seat to other defense priorities, but returned to the main agenda last year. The country is now looking seriously at the MQ-4C Triton broad-area maritime surveillance version, to be operated alongside the manned Boeing P-8 as a possible replacement for the Royal Australian Air Force’s ageing P-3 Orion fleet. A Foreign Military Sales planning case has already been signed.
Away from the export market the U.S. Air Force Global Hawk community is waiting on a decision on the future of its own RQ-4B Block 30s, which have been under threat of cancellation for some time due to budgetary restraints. An answer may be forthcoming in March. Meanwhile, the future with the U.S. Navy is rosier. The service continues to operate two RQ-4A BAMS-Demonstration aircraft way past their initial six-month deployment, and the first of three currently-contracted MQ-4C Triton BAMS aircraft has recently completed its 10th test flight. It is due to move to Patuxent River for Navy trials later this year.