Global Hawk Lowdown

The nation needs about three times the number of Global Hawk reconnaissance platforms as the Air Force plans, according to Northrop Grumman, maker of the high-altitude unmanned aircraft. Michael Isherwood, a Northrop analyst, said at a National Press Club briefing Sept. 10 (see above) the Air Force has only budgeted for 54 Global Hawks, not quite enough to satisfy the needs of a major combat operation. For major operations, Isherwood said, USAF needs 61 Global Hawks. Add in the demands of the war on terror and the number rises by 49 to 110. Factor the Navy’s broad area maritime surveillance program (recently cleared to move forward) and the total goes up another 38 to 148. Throw in nine more to meet the needs of Homeland Security for surveillance to aid such work as firefighting and earthquake assessment, then one arrives at 157 Global Hawks. And this total does not include training or maintenance spares to maintain 24-hour persistent awareness over some 27 world hotspots, Isherwood said. If the new Pentagon strategy is indeed to “accept some risk” in conventional fighting systems in order to obtain a comprehensive intelligence picture, a logical place to go is his company’s airplane, he said.