Unmanned aerial vehicles. Lately, all the talk in aerospace circles has concerned the rise of the UAV in military importance. Honeywell's
Well -- pardon me for asking -- but does anybody make planes for pilots anymore?
"Um, we do"
Oh yes, Northrop Grumman
Wonder why that might be?
I've got a notion
Call me a pessimist, but I'm not at all certain that this 75-plane fleet is realistic. Consider that if Defense Secretary Gates gets his way, we could be looking at a planned phase-down to a "10-Carrier Navy," but we're holding steady at 11 for the time being. Consider too that the ordinary aircraft complement on a Nimitz-class carrier includes four Hawkeyes. You can do the math: 11 times 4 equals ... well, a bit more than half the number of Hawkeyes we're told the Navy will ultimately order.
Granted, the Navy probably wants to have a few "spares" tucked away in case one of its new birds crashes or is down for maintenance. Still, the Navy's getting along just fine with 69 older model Hawkeyes in service today. If our carrier fleet is shrinking rather than expanding, I'd consider that a likely ceiling on the number of Advanced Hawkeyes the Pentagon will be buying in the future.
Finally, consider that Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, recently predicted that Lockheed Martin's
So, why weren't Northrop investors a bit more excited about the news? Seems to me that between a shrinking carrier force on one hand, and the advent of labor-saving UAVs on the other, Northrop's seeing a whole lot more Hawkeyes in the bush than it will ever get in hand.
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