Bad news for NGC’s Global Hawk program:
A new version of Northrop Grumman Corp.’s Global Hawk drone is “not operationally effective for conducting near-continuous, persistent” intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions that it was designed to conduct, according to the Pentagon’s top weapons tester.
The RQ-4B Global Hawk Block 30 was capable of providing only about 40 percent of requested coverage when flying two or three sorties a week, using three aircraft, during a testing period from October through December, according to the May 27 report signed by J. Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s director of operational test and evaluation.
The system “is not operationally suitable,” the report states. “Global Hawk long endurance flights do not routinely provide persistent ISR coverage due to low air vehicle reliability.”
“Mission-critical components fail at high rates, resulting in poor takeoff reliability, high air abort rates, low mission capable rates, an excessive demand for critical spare parts and a high demand for maintenance support,” the report said.
The gold standard for major defense acquisition programs is “operationally effective” and “operationally suitable”, and the Block 30 air vehicle is neither, yet.
These are growing pains, probably. The EA-18 Growler is still not considered operationally suitable, according to DoD’s DOT&E, despite the fact that they sortied for the Libya
goatrope mission. Given time and money, the maintainability and reliability issues of the BAMS RQ-4B vehicle could almost certainly be overcome.
The question, in this economic and political environment, is whether either will be available.