Northrop Grumman Corp. received a $302.9 million contract from the U.S. Air Force for five RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the first of which will be delivered in 2010, the Los Angeles-based company announced Nov. 20.

The fixed-price, incentive-fee contract also includes a ground station consisting of a launch and recovery element and a mission control element, plus two additional sensor suites that will be retrofitted into existing craft.

Two aircraft due to be delivered in 2010 will be Block 30 Global Hawks equipped with an enhanced sensor suite that provides electro-optical/infrared and synthetic aperture radar imaging capabilities. Northrop Grumman did not detail the capabilities of three Block 40 UAVs called for under the contract, which runs through 2011.

Capable of flying at altitudes in excess of 18,000 meters and staying aloft for 32 hours, Global Hawks are used to collect reconnaissance imagery and signals intelligence, and transmit the information in near real time to air, ground and sea forces.