WASHINGTON – Northrop
Grumman officials confirmed yesterday that they would
offer their Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle for a Navy
If Northrop wins, the potentially billion-dollar
program would be managed in Bethpage, N.Y., instead of San
Northrop Grumman's proposal for the Navy is based on
a Global Hawk model that can operate at altitudes up
to 60,000 feet.
Most of Northrop's robotic aircraft development has
been based at its unmanned-systems business in Rancho
Bernardo, where Northrop consolidated its work with Ryan
Aeronautics, one of the early leaders in military UAVs.
The aircraft are assembled in Palmdale.
The company chose one of its East Coast locations for
work on the BAMS – Broad Area Maritime Surveillance –
“Given our long heritage of Navy aircraft from our
Bethpage . . . division, we will be leading this effort
from Bethpage,” said Robert Mitchell, a Northrop vice
president for special programs at the San Diego-based
The program would bring in “other capabilities from
inside the corporation,” including San Diego, Mitchell
The BAMS aircraft is intended to provide continual
maritime surveillance; it relays real-time imagery and
sensor data from altitudes above 40,000 feet. Northrop's
proposal is based on a recent Global Hawk model that can
carry 3,000 pounds of sensors and equipment, operate at
altitudes up to 60,000 feet and survey more than 40,000
square miles in a 24-hour period.
It is a bigger and
more powerful version of the Global Hawk that the Air
Force has been using in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Although one Northrop representative indicated that the
shift might result in personnel moves, corporate spokesman
Gus Gulmert said it is “too soon to identify any numbers
for jobs related to the BAMS program” because the contract
has yet to be awarded.
If Northrop wins the BAMS contract, it is expected that
“jobs would be created in four locations,” including San
Diego and Palmdale, Gulmert said.
A competing proposal for the BAMS contract is
anticipated from San Diego-based General Atomics
Aeronautical Systems and Lockheed Martin Corp. of
The Navy wants the unmanned system to provide sustained
ocean surveillance to augment its planned multimission
maritime aircraft, or P-8, program.
The requirement to cover “a large portion of the Earth
surface” is the key to Northrop's selection of the
improved block 20 model of the Global Hawk as the basis
for its BAMS proposal, Mitchell said.
Because of its size – as big as a business jet, with a
118-foot wingspan – and its more powerful engines, the
improved Global Hawk is able to fly higher, farther and
faster, and can stay in the field longer than most other
UAVs, Mitchell said.
“We intend to have an offering to the Navy that is
extremely low-risk and affordable,” Mitchell said. “The
fact that we have this large aircraft that can travel long
distances and see a long way, get there quickly and
prosecute its mission means that we can do it with far
fewer aircraft than if we had a smaller aircraft. We think
we will be highly competitive.”
The General Atomics-Lockheed team countered by noting
the lower cost of its aircraft, a modified Predator B
called Mariner, which is smaller than the Global Hawk and
does not have quite the altitude capability.
“The operationally proven Predator B/Mariner . . .
offers the most cost-effective solution to meet the Navy's
maritime and littoral surveillance requirements,” said
Thomas J. Cassidy Jr., president of General Atomics'
Aircraft Systems Group.
The Mariner “has extensive experience operating in
maritime surveillance roles off the coast of California
supporting the U.S. Navy, in Alaska for the U.S. Coast
Guard, in Canada for U.S. forces and on the west coast of
Australia providing surveillance of vital national
resources,” Cassidy said in a statement.
Tierney Helmas, a Lockheed spokeswoman, said that in
addition to flying a Predator in the Navy's recent Trident
Warrior exercise, the companies recently completed the
Persistent Unmanned Maritime Aerial study for the Navy.
“That's going to be helpful for us in moving forward,”
The study apparently was intended to help the Navy
determine what requirements it would seek in the BAMS