Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Northrop Grumman is assessing the possible impact of Pentagon budget cuts to the Global Hawk, an unmanned surveillance plane developed in San Diego.
The Global Hawk, a reconnaissance aircraft that does not carry missiles, broke records for unmanned aerial vehicles a decade ago. Now military belt tightening may cut the number of planes the Air Force will purchase.
Jim Zortman, a vice president at Northrop Grumman, said the aircraft is built in Palmdale, but design upgrades employ several hundred people in San Diego. He said only one model is threatened by the proposed cuts, a class of Global Hawks called “Block 30.” This class has seen large cost overruns in recent years and the proposal is to cap the number of aircraft the Air Force will purchase to 21.
Cost estimates for these aircraft vary from $30 million each to more than $200 million, depending on how the cost is estimated and which accessories the aircraft is fitted with.
But Zortman said other versions of the Global Hawk are still in demand.
“There’s a lot of people besides the Air Force that have expressed an interest in buying Global Hawk,” he said.“ A number of our allies and friends around the world are very interested in buying it. There’s a variant of it that the Navy has decided to buy and so there’s design work to get it to the specifications that they would want.”
Zortman said about 300 people in San Diego are employed in connection with the Global Hawk the Navy is buying.
Until federal military budget cuts are finalized, Vortman said the company is carrying on business as usual. He said about 2,400 people are employed at Northrop Grumman’s Rancho Bernardo offices.