Northrop Grumman announced Monday that AF-18, its first RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 40 remotely piloted aircraft built for the Air Force, has completed envelope expansion flights at Edwards AFB, Calif., just six months after conducting its first flight. The Block 40 variant will carry the sophisticated MP-RTIP advanced electronically scanned array radar for tracking ground objects and producing high-quality synthetic aperture radar imagery. The first MP-RTIP unit for developmental testing has arrived at Edwards for integration on AF-18 for operational evaluation. “Our next step is to finalize sensor integration with the airframe and conduct the first flight of the full Block 40 system later this year,” said Duke Dufresne, Northrop’s vice president of strike and surveillance systems. The Air Force currently plans to acquire 22 Global Hawk Block 40 aircraft out of a total RQ-4 fleet of 77 airframes.
Boeing’s receipt of the 10th lot contract award for the KC-46 Pegasus this week leaves just three lots left to complete the Air Force’s buy of the tanker, although a further buy of 75 additional aircraft as a “bridge” to the Next-Generation Aerial-refueling System (NGAS) seems increasingly likely.