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Global Hawk 'Essential to National Security'
Aviation Week's DTI | Amy Butler | May 23, 2011
This article first appeared in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.

U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright has drafted a memo to senior officials in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and four-star officers that is likely to support certification of the Global Hawk program to move forward despite a recent cost overrun.

In the document, Cartwright says the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) revalidated the 2009 requirements and key performance parameters for Global Hawk without amendment. He also says the system is "essential to national security." These are key items needed to move forward with a recertification of the UAV program.

Cartwright is vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and chair of the JROC.

The Pentagon notified Congress last month that the high-flying RQ-4 UAV breached its original cost estimate by more than 25%. This overage triggers a mandatory review and recertification of the program in accordance with the Nunn-McCurdy statute. The recertification is expected within 60 days of the cost-overrun notification.

Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter is scheduled to review the Global Hawk during a Defense Acquisition Board meeting today.

A large part of the Global Hawk overrun is a result of the Pentagon's decision to halve the projected buy of 22 Block 40 aircraft, which are designed to carry the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP) active, electronically scanned array radar optimized for ground surveillance.

Other factors contributing to the overrun include the cost of handling diminishing manufacturing sources and the establishment of depot activities for the Global Hawk's sensors, according to the Nunn-McCurdy notification letter sent to Congress by Air Force Secretary Michael Donley.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon testing community is expected to finalize a report on the initial operational test and evaluation phase soon.

Though still considered developmental, the Northrop Grumman-built UAV continues to fly operations over Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Japan, and Central and South America, among other areas.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

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