Northrop Grumman has won a contract valued $109 million to supply spares and contractor logistics support for RQ-4 Global Hawks operated by the South Korean military. Earlier this month, a ruling party official said that all four Global Hawk unmanned surveillance aircraft that the South Korean Air Force procured from the United States have defects in them. It was further revealed that the military found a malfunctioning part responsible for transmitting imagery to the ground in one of the Global Hawks, but it has yet to find what went wrong.

An oil leak was also found in the landing gear of one aircraft, with a core control sensor-related problem detected at another. It remains unconfirmed whether the flaws were present at the time of their delivery or they have occurred during their operation here. South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration expressed interest in acquiring RQ-4Bs in 2012 to increase intelligence capabilities following the exchange of the Wartime Operational Control from the U.S. to the Republic of Korea. Northrop Grumman was awarded a 965.9 billion won contract in 2014 for four RQ-4B Block 30 Global Hawks with the Enhanced Integrated Sensor Suite which were later supplied in 2019 and 2020.

The Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk is a high-altitude, remotely-piloted, surveillance aircraft. It was initially designed by Ryan Aeronautical which later became part of Northrop Grumman. It was known as Tier II+ during development. The RQ-4 provides a broad overview and systematic surveillance using high-resolution synthetic aperture radar and electro-optical & infrared sensors with long loiter times over target areas. It can survey as much as 40,000 square miles of terrain per day, an area the size of South Korea or Iceland.

It is used as a High-Altitude Long Endurance platform covering the spectrum of intelligence collection capability to support forces in worldwide military operations. According to the US Air Force, the superior surveillance capabilities of the aircraft allow more precise weapons targeting and better protection of friendly forces. Since its production in 1998m The Global Hawk is operated by the United States Air Force, NASA, NATO, Japan and South Korea. The U.S. Navy has developed the Global Hawk into the MQ-4C Triton maritime surveillance platform. USD 131.4 million surveillance aircraft took its first flight on 28 February 1998.

The first seven aircraft were built under the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration program of US DARPA and were actively operated by the USAF in the War in Afghanistan and Iraq. On 24 April 2001, a Global Hawk flew non-stop from Edwards AFB to RAAF Base Edinburgh in Australia, making history by being the first pilotless aircraft to cross the Pacific Ocean. The flight took 22 hours and set a world record for absolute distance flown by a UAV, 13,219.86 kilometres.

On 22 March 2008, a Global Hawk set the endurance record for full-scale, operational uncrewed aircraft UAVs by flying for 33.1 hours at altitudes up to 60,000 feet over Edwards AFB. A total of eight variants of Global Hawk has been produced so far. Remotely piloted aircraft has a length of 47.7 feet, a wingspan of 130.9 feet and height of 15.3 feet. With a gross weight of 32250 lbs, Global Hawk has a maximum speed of 629 km/h, a range of 22780 km, an endurance of 32 hours and a service ceiling of 60000 feet. The Global Hawk UAV system comprises the RQ-4 air vehicle, which is outfitted with various equipment such as sensor packages and communication systems; and a ground element consisting of a Launch and Recovery Element and a Mission Control Element with ground communications equipment. Each RQ-4 air vehicle is powered by an Allison Rolls-Royce AE3007H turbofan engine with 7,050 lbf thrust and carries a payload of 2,000 pounds.


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