SAN DIEGO, July 27, 2007 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- The high-flying RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial systems (UAS) built by Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) recently completed their 1,000th flight. The fourth production Global Hawk, designated AF-4, flew the milestone mission June 14-15 in support of the global war on terrorism (GWOT).

"AF-4 cruised at extremely high altitudes for more than 18 hours without refueling -- a feat that very few aircraft, manned or unmanned, have matched thus far," said Gary Ervin, vice president for Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector.

This was the 517th combat mission flight for the Global Hawks, which have logged more than 10,700 combat hours, accounting for 71 percent of the program's total flight time of 15,135 hours.

"Global Hawk's GWOT support has been outstanding, with two Block 10 variants currently deployed and surging with 20-hour missions, with only four hours between recovery and the subsequent launch," said Randy Brown, Global Hawk program director with the U.S. Air Force's 303rd Aeronautical Systems Group at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. "This achievement and the system's excellent track record reaffirm what we already know -- the Global Hawk is a highly reliable, flexible and cost-effective intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) weapons system that meets the needs of our troops on the battlefield."

Since its initial deployment immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, the Global Hawk program has maintained a 95 percent or better mission effectiveness. Out of the 277 combat missions flown since January 2006 until its 1,000th flight, only 11 have been canceled due to maintenance, weather, or mission reasons.

Another significant accomplishment this year occurred when three Global Hawks were airborne simultaneously on Feb. 21 and April 24. In both instances, Global Hawk AF-5 flew a GWOT mission in the Middle East while AF-7 flew a series of flight tests from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. At the same time, another Global Hawk, N-1, flew from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. N-1 is one of two U.S. Navy aircraft designated for the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD) program.

"From these three sites, the aircraft could have reached any point on the planet and provided persistent ISR and returned to their respective home base," said Jerry Madigan, Northrop Grumman vice president of high-altitude long-endurance systems. "The Feb. 21 flight marked the first time the GHMD program exercised Global Hawk's certificate of authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate outside of the restricted area into national airspace."

Another important milestone for the GHMD program took place April 11 when Global Hawk N-1 provided surveillance support for the Navy's Commander Carrier Strike Group One Ship Sinking Exercise (CCSG-1 SINKEX) at NAS Patuxent River, taking 114 near-real-time images in approximately eight hours.

The CCSG-1 SINKEX sortie featured several firsts for GHMD, including the first night launch, first maximum-weight launch from NAS Patuxent River, and the first GHMD operations in the Atlantic Ocean. It was also the longest-ranging GHMD flight flown from NAS Patuxent River to date.

Global Hawk is the only UAS to meet the military and the FAA's airworthiness standards. It is the first UAS certified by the FAA to have its own flight plans filed and use civilian air corridors to fly regular flights in the United States. The Block 20 variant is the only UAS tested to manned aircraft standards.

In addition, the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center determined in March 2007 that the Global Hawk is fully qualified for the intelligence collection needs of battlefield commanders after conducting an operational assessment of the Block 10 variant. The operational assessment included testing during actual GWOT sorties as well as two domestic flights. The first domestic flight was over Florida to evaluate electro-optical, infrared and synthetic aperture radar sensor performance in dense foliage. During the second 27-hour sortie, the Global Hawk system collected images over Alaska to test its performance in the upper latitudes and to collect intelligence information in a snowy environment.

"Without a doubt, Global Hawk has proven its capabilities and value to the warfighter as it continues to be on cost and on schedule for the past 19 months," said Madigan. "Most recently, the Block 20 configuration equipped with an enhanced integrated sensor suite was delivered to the Air Force on May 17. The Block 20 aircraft provides 50 percent more payload capacity, further enhancing Global Hawk's ability to identify and track insurgents."

Global Hawks are operated overseas by Air Force pilots from a mission control element stationed at its main operating base at Beale Air Force Base near Sacramento, Calif. A launch and recovery element and a combined Air Force and Northrop Grumman team are forward deployed with the air systems. The air vehicle can fly at altitudes up to 65,000 feet and can survey vast geographic regions with pinpoint accuracy. A third Block 10 Global Hawk will be deployed to support GWOT later this year.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a $30 billion global defense and technology company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in information and services, electronics, aerospace and shipbuilding to government and commercial customers worldwide.

  CONTACT:  Gemma Loochkartt
          Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems
          (858) 618-4245
          gemma.loochkartt@ngc.com