Northrop Grumman has submitted an unsolicited proposal to Canada for three modified RQ-4B Global Hawk unmanned aircraft to provide surveillance of its Arctic territories as ice fields retreat and the region opens up.

The Polar Hawk proposal presented to the Ottawa government responds to a longstanding need in Canada for Arctic sovereignty and surveillance of the Northwest Passage, a sea route through the Arctic Ocean, says Dane Marolt, business development director.

The proposal comes as the Canadian Department of National Defense prepares to restart its long-delayed Joint Unmanned Surveillance Target Acquisition System (Justas) procurement of armed UAVs, but without the originally planned second phase for Arctic surveillance.

Northrop Grumman has teamed with Canadian military-aircraft support provider L-3 MAS for the Polar Hawk bid. “We are proposing a full turn-key solution, with Northrop Grumman providing three air vehicles and ground stations and L-3 MAS doing everything else,” Marolt says.

The Polar Hawk is a Block 30I Global Hawk with “minor mods,” he says, including an Iridium satellite-communications link to provide command-and-control north of 70 deg. latitude, the limit of Ku-band satellite coverage. NASA’s Global Hawk has used Iridium for flights near the pole.

The high-altitude, long-endurance UAV carries the same electro-optical/infrared and synthetic-aperture radar/moving-target indicator sensor package as the Block 30I, but with the addition of maritime radar modes and the automated information system used to identify and track transponders on ships.

Marolt says Polar Hawk is the only unmanned aircraft capable of providing continuous Arctic surveillance because it flies at 60,000 ft., above the weather and airliners plying time-saving polar routes.

“At 300 kt. true airspeed, the aircraft can provide surveillance of a tremendous swath of ocean and land, covering the entire Northwest Passage four to six times on one mission,” while a polar-orbiting satellite would take three weeks to assemble a complete picture of the Arctic, Marolt says.

Northrop Grumman has presented Ottawa with a “rough order of magnitude cost for a 20-year package, but not a price,” Marolt says, adding aircraft could be available off the U.S. Air Force production line “rather quickly, inside two years.”

As there is no program of record yet, Canada could opt for a government-to-government foreign military sale or a commercial purchase. But to comply with the Missile Technology Control Regime, he says, the Polar Hawks would have to be owned and operated by the Canadian government and flown with a Canadian Forces pilot in command.

The Justas program, meanwhile, is in the options analysis phase, with initial operational capability now planned for 2017, a delay of five years. MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates is proposing a version of Israel Aerospace Industries’ Heron, while General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has teamed with Canada’s CAE to offer the Predator.