The newest variant of the Air Force’s high-altitude long endurance unmanned aerial vehicle—the Block 30 Global Hawk—is due to fly for the first time this month, according to Ed Walby, head of Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk business development. Walby told reporters at AFA’s Air & Space Conference Monday that the Block 30 model, featuring the full signals intelligence package, would make its first flight this month with its full complement of sensors. The Advanced Signals Intelligence Payload (ASIP) is a leap in capability for the aircraft and will expand its intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance envelope significantly, he noted. The Block 30 is slated to enter initial operational test and evaluation in summer 2009. Currently, the production line in Mississippi is producing both Block 30 and Block 40 airframes at a rate of about five per year. Walby said that delivery schedule will hold until completion of the IOT&E phase. The first Block 40 sensor package, the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program, is due for integration on its airframe in February 2009, he said. The MP-RTIP sensor package increases scanned aperture radar imaging modes, electronics protection, and other special modes not available on other sensors. As for the future, Walby said the goal is to get to IOT&E for the aircraft first, and then the size of the order may increase. At that point, too, the company can unveil new sensors that are more “tailored” to the Global Hawk, he said. For now, though, sights are set on next summer’s IOT&E phase. “That graduation exercise is critical,” Walby said.
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.