Northrop, meanwhile, is facing a challenge in keeping the Global Hawk production line open. The U.S. Air Force intends to cap procurement at three Block 20s with communications-gateway payloads, 18 multi-sensor Block 30s and 11 radar-equipped Block 40s for ground surveillance.
Of these, the remaining two Block 30s and three Block 40s are in production. The Air Force is resisting congressional pressure to build another three Block 30s to complete the planned procurement of 21, arguing it intends to retire the aircraft after 2014 in favor of keeping the Lockheed U-2 in service.
For Northrop, the final three Air Force Block 30s would bridge a potential gap until production of the MQ-4C begins in fiscal 2015. The company also wants to keep the Block 30 line open for international customers, beginning with the sale of four aircraft to South Korea now working its way through U.S. approvals.
Germany on May 15 announced it will not proceed with procurement of four Block 40-based Euro Hawks for electronic intelligence-gathering, citing issues with operating the UAV in civil airspace. NATO still plans to buy five Block 40s. Japan and Canada have expressed interest in Block 30s, and India in MQ-4Cs.