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Northrop Says Unmanned Spy Plane Set Flight Records

March 23, 2001|PETER PAE

An unmanned spy airplane under development by Northrop Grumman Corp. successfully completed a 30-hour, 24-minute continuous round-trip flight to South America on Wednesday, setting a world record for endurance and altitude, the company said.

Global Hawk, which was designed in San Diego and under assembly in Palmdale, is a next-generation high-altitude reconnaissance plane that can fly without a pilot and is seen as replacing the venerable U-2 spy plane. An on-board computer aided by space-based satellites pilots the plane.

Northrop said the Global Hawk took off from Edwards Air Force Base at 6:52 p.m. March 19 and flew along the Pacific coastlines of Mexico, Central America and portions of South America before returning to base at 1:17 a.m. March 21.

It broke its previous record of 29 hours set last year.

The plane, which takes off and lands on its own, flew the route at 65,191 feet, breaking the world record for altitude.

A representative of the National Aeronautic Assn. was present for the landing and is evaluating the flight data to confirm the world record, a Northrop spokesman said.

Separately, the Los Angeles-based defense contractor said it received a $45-million award to continue the development of the Global Hawk.

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