Northrop Grumman Corp. beat
competitors Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. to win
U.S. Navy contract worth $1.16 billion to develop a
satellite-linked maritime surveillance drone
that officials with the winning firm say could attract international customers.


Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman will alter its RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for naval use under the
Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) program
, said Bob Wood, director of BAMS Capture for Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems.
The Global Hawk already is used by the U.S. Air Force for surveillance and reconnaissance.


The Navy selected Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk-based proposal over Lockheed Martin’s RQ-9 Mariner
based on the General Atomics-built

Predator B UAV
, and Boeing’s proposal to transform a Gulfstream G550 business jet into an unpiloted surveillance craft.

system is an adjunct to the P-8A, the replacement for the Navy’s P-3 Orion anti-submarine aircraft
, and is intended to provide 24-hour
surveillance coverage out to a radius of 3,680 kilometers
from five locations around the world, according to the
Navy. Its communications system includes links with
military as well as commercial communications satellites such as those operated by London-based Inmarsat,
according to Northrop Grumman


It is too early to calculate the total cost of the program, but current plans call for 68 aircraft costing $55 million each, said Navy spokesman Lt. Clayton Doss. Under the initial $1.16 billion system design and development contract, Northrop Grumman must deliver two modified
Global Hawk UAVs with surveillance
payloads and communication suites, one forward operating base mission system, one systems integration laboratory and one main operating base mission control system, Doss said.


The main BAMS surveillance payload is based on an existing sensor developed by Northrop Grumman and known as the Multi-Function Active Sensor. Wood said Northrop Grumman will be able to meet more than 90 percent of the Navy’s BAMS requirement using off-the-shelf systems.

“We know how to do it; we’ve done it many times and we’ve got a number of mature systems to integrate,” Wood
said. “We’re in a great position to pull it all together.”


The system design and development phase is scheduled to last 89 months, and Wood said the first UAV
delivery is targeted for mid-2011. Delivery of the first
production aircraft is scheduled for 2014, with initial operational capability anticipated in 2015, Doss said, adding that both the P-8A and BAMS should be fully operational by 2019. The
life expectancy of a Global Hawk aircraft is 20 years, he said.


The contract
opens the door for new opportunities for Northrop Grumman
to sell Global Hawks internationally, including to Australia, which has contributed $15 million to
Navy’s BAMS demonstration under an agreement, Wood said.

“We are hopeful that Australia will continue to move forward with the Navy,” he


Navy officials said a decision from Australia to buy Global Hawks for its maritime surveillance
is expected in June or July.

Comments: riannotta@space.com