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Northrop Grumman tapped for South Korean drone support

The company has been contracted to provide logistical support for South Korea's fleet of RQ-4 Global Hawks.

By Stephen Carlson
Northrop Grumman tapped for South Korean drone support
A RQ-4 Global Hawk lon-range surveillance drone is seen landing at the Red Flag exercises in Alaska. Photo by Airman 1st Class Tristan Viglianco/9th Reconnaissance Wing/U.S. Air Force

Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Northrop Grumman signed a contract with the Republic of Korea to provide logistical support to ROK's high-altitude RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle fleet.

The contract includes site activation for launching and ground control, training, and support personnel for four RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles set for delivery over the next year, the company announced on Wednesday.

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Two of the long-range surveillance drones were due this year under a 2014 contract, but delivery has been delayed due to U.S. cyber security concerns.

The United States is in the process of improving the Global Hawk's anti-hacking protection and network encryption to prevent outside interference in the drone's operation.

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The RQ-4 Global Hawk is a large high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle used for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations. It has a wingspan of over 130 feet and has a maximum takeoff weight of 16 tons, making it very large for a UAV.

The RQ-4 mounts several kinds of electro-optical, infrared and thermal imaging sensors and can be mounted with other systems such as radar. A naval version called the MQ-4C Triton is also in service.

The UAV has a range of over 12,000 miles and can stay in the air for more than 34 hours, allowing it to provide persistent coverage of large target areas. It has been operated by the U.S. Air Force since 2001, with more than 250,000 flight hours and has been exported to NATO members and other allied countries.

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South Korea is looking to beef up it's UAV fleet, including plans for a drone combat unit utilizing swarms of small weaponized drones, officials have said.

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