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Global Hawk Drones to be Repurposed by Northrop Grumman

On Wednesday, Oct. 13, lawmakers, local officials, Grand Forks business leaders, and Northrop Grumman executives gathered to mark the transfer of four retired Global Hawk drones officially. The drones will be upgraded with new equipment before being flown to either the east or west coast to assist hypersonic missile testing. The drones were transferred from Grand Forks Air Force Base to Northrop facility.

“The future security of our country depends in big, big way, on the incredible work that you and the other technology aerospace companies we have (are doing),” said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., when addressing the roughly 60 people gathered to mark the occasion. The drones will be upgraded with new equipment before being flown to either the east or west coast to assist hypersonic missile testing.

The drones were transferred from Grand Forks Air Force Base to Northrop facility. Hoeven gave the keynote talk to begin off the UAS Summit & Expo at the Alerus Center earlier in the day, where he recapped the objective. These Global Hawks will be renamed Range Hawks and will be equipped with new sensors that will allow them to track hypersonic missiles under the new program. Previously, drones were used to track ground targets or as airborne communication hubs.

According to Hoeven, the new sensors will allow the drones to “look up” instead of down. According to Hoeven, the four drones have “graduated” from intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions to testing new missile platforms. On Wednesday, two big drones, with a wingspan of 130 feet, were inside Northrop 35,000 square foot hangar, with portions of their engines visible.

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