The last of the Global Hawk RQ-4A unmanned aerial vehicles are rolling off the line now, and the B model is a full-production line, Northrop Grumman official Ed Walby told reporters Tuesday at the AFA conference. He had nothing but praise for the original model, considering the company sent it to war in Afghanistan and Iraq while it was still in development. “We have learned a lot from deployment,” said Walby. It will be hard to beat the 94 percent mission-effectiveness rate the A model posted, but the company believes it has. Walby says the slightly larger RQ-4B has just completed operational assessment flights, and ground operators were “extremely delighted” with the new sensor arrays—providing a 50 percent increase in range for the UAV’s infrared, optical, and synthetic aperture radar sensors.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.