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Pentagon Budget Said to Fund First NATO Global Hawk Drones

The Pentagon proposes in its new budget to spend $1.2 billion for the first three NATO-version Northrop Grumman Corp. Global Hawk drones and three additional U.S. Navy-version drones, according to an official.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization announced this month it planned to buy five of the unmanned aircraft, known as the Alliance Ground System, through 2017. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters Feb. 4 without elaboration that “we have protected funding for AGS in our new budget.”

The budget also calls for purchasing the next three Navy drones of the version known as the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance System, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of the budget’s submission to Congress on Feb. 13. The Navy has two demonstration models, one of which is flying Persian Gulf surveillance missions. It plans to purchase as many as 68.

The budget request will help Falls Church, Virginia-based Northrop Grumman after the Air Force announced it’s truncating purchases of its third-generation Block 30 drones. The aircraft have proven too expensive to operate and maintain, Air Force officials told reporters last month.

The Air Force has spent $3.4 billion developing and buying 18 Block 30 drones. It hasn’t disclosed whether it will put on contract an additional three drones for which Congress approved money, according to Air Force spokeswoman Jennifer Cassidy.

The Air Force program had called for buying 31 Block 30 Global Hawks. The Air Force hasn’t formally announced that it will forgo purchase of the remaining 10.

Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz told reporters Jan. 27 that the service was reviewing whether to retire the initial 18 new aircraft rather than continue flying them.

Boeing Aircraft

Separately, the fiscal 2013 budget continues purchases of two primary Boeing Co. aircraft -- the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and P-8 Poseidon maritime control aircraft, according to the official.

The fiscal 2013 budget includes about $3.2 billion to continue purchases of 26 additional fighter versions, down from 28 this year.

The budget also includes 12 “G”-model Boeing Growler aircraft for jamming enemy electronics and air defense radar, the same number as last year, the official said.

The Navy’s budget request for 13 Boeing P-8 maritime patrol aircraft is two more than this year. The proposed budget requests $3.3 billion.

For vessels, the Navy will continue to purchase two additional Virginia-class submarines for $4.3 billion, before reducing the number by one in fiscal 2014, the official said. The deferred submarine will be purchased in 2018, the official said.

Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. and General Dynamics Corp.’s Electric Boat unit build the Virginia class.

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