SAN DIEGO, Aug. 16, 2011 -- The U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command has declared that the Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC)-built unmanned RQ-4 Block 30 Global Hawk has reached its initial operational capability (IOC).

IOC is declared when a development program completes initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E), and is cleared to support real-time operations.

While IOC was recently declared, the Air Force determined there was a critical need to implement Block 30 Global Hawks earlier this year. The Block 30s were moved to operational status prior to the IOT&E report being released and have provided critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in support of disaster relief efforts in Japan, NATO operations over Libya and are replacing Block 10 aircraft in Central Command operations. Â

"The men and women of Northrop Grumman are proud to provide Global Hawk's unprecedented capabilities to support critical missions all over the world," said George Guerra, HALE vice president, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.Â

There are currently nine Block 30 Global Hawks stationed abroad. The Block 30 Global Hawks are currently equipped with the Raytheon enhanced integrated sensor suite (EISS), which includes electro optical/infrared and synthetic aperture radar. Within the next year, the Block 30 aircraft will be reconfigured to perform a multi-intelligence role with the introduction of Northrop Grumman's Airborne Signals Intelligence Payload (ASIP) with the existing EISS.

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