Global Hawk Block 30 Performance in Perspective

The Pentagon’s top weapons tester found that the RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 remotely piloted aircraft is “not operationally effective” for conducting the near-continuous, persistent overhead imagery collection and electronic eavesdropping that the Air Force requires. In a May report chronicling the results of tests conducted last fall, the director of operational test and evaluation highlighted technical performance deficiencies and air vehicle reliability issues that limited the aircraft’s effective-time-on-station coverage to less than half of what the Air Force wants for this new variant of the combat-proven Global Hawk. Manufacturer Northrop Grumman, in a document issued to staffers on Capitol Hill, said the DOTE report represents “a snapshot in time” from late last year. Since then, the Air Force has already implemented most of the corrective actions, which have resulted in better performance as demonstrated during the aircraft’s recent use over Japan and Libya, according to the company. Further, the Air Force is expected to formally approve the Block 30 configuration for operations this summer, said Northrop. (DOTE report; caution, large-sized file.) (See also Bloomberg report and Flightglobal report.)