The Air Force is reducing its buy of Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 40 remotely piloted aircraft, opting to procure only 11 of them, Air Force budget director Maj. Gen. Alfred Flowers said Monday when discussing the service’s Fiscal 2012 spending request. Previously USAF planned to procure 22 Block 40 aircraft. The Air Force will use the money saved by foregoing the full Block 40 purchase to upgrade the electro-optical and infrared sensors on Global Hawk Block 30 aircraft. The Block 40 Global Hawk is configured to carry the Northrop-Raytheon MP-RTIP radar for ground surveillance. Marilyn Thomas, USAF’s budget deputy, said the smaller Block 40 inventory will provide two combat air patrols (24/7 coverage). Along with ground moving target indication capability resident on E-8C JSTARS aircraft, that will be “sufficient,” she said. Thomas acknowledged that cost and performance issues factored in this decision.
When the Air Force sets a new program baseline for the B-52 re-engining this fall, there will be “some” cost increase, because the project wasn't previously fully funded, and the Air Force has a better handle on actual supplier costs and knowledge from ground testing, program officials said.