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SPY PLANES PASS 5,000 HOURS.

Byline: Jim Skeen Staff Writer

PALMDALE - The Palmdale-built Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance aircraft have flown more than 5,000 hours in support of the War on Terror, Northrop Grumman reported Tuesday.

In virtually constant action since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Global Hawk aircraft have flown 233 missions supporting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of the 233 missions, 157 were flown by one Global Hawk aircraft, according to Northrop Grumman, the aircraft's prime contractor.

``The high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned reconnaissance system has performed exceptionally well in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, providing image intelligence for hundreds of time-sensitive targets,'' said George Guerra, director of Northrop Grumman's Air Force Global Hawk program.

``It not only flies pre-programmed missions, but can also be re-tasked in just minutes to locate new targets. Global Hawk proved early-on its unique value, reliability and flexibility as an intelligence asset.''

The program's combat record includes providing images of 55 percent of the military targets during the initial Iraq campaign in 2003.

Controlled by onboard computers, the Global Hawk is capable of flying at an altitude of 65,000 feet, above storms and some six miles higher than jetliners normally fly, for more than 35 hours at a time. During a single mission, a Global Hawk can cover 40,000 square miles.

The Global Hawk aircraft are being built by a small cadre of Northrop Grumman workers in Palmdale. Although employment numbers on the program are small, Antelope Valley officials soliciting other programs point to the Global Hawk as an example of the region's technical know-how.

In November, Northrop Grumman was awarded a $60 million contract to begin production of the next five RQ-4B Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, an aircraft the company assembles at Air Force Plant 42.

The contract will allow the company to start purchasing parts for the aircraft, including the intelligence-gathering electronic equipment, one set of mission control equipment, and one set of launch-and-recovery equipment.

The ``B'' model aircraft are larger versions of the RQ-4A aircraft that are already in service. The B models are designed to carry 3,000 pounds of equipment, compared with 2,000 pounds carried by the RQ-4As.

Northrop Grumman is already building five RQ-4B Global Hawks in Palmdale under previously awarded contracts. The first of those aircraft is scheduled to begin testing this summer or in the fall.

Jim Skeen, (661) 267-5743

james.skeen(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 4, 2006
Words:399
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