In 2001, the U.S. Air Force officially took over the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk unmanned air system (UAS) project, now estimated to cost $12.4 billion for 55 aircraft, and embarked on its development. Within months, the momentum behind the high-flying spy aircraft grew. The young UAS was rushed into operation in the Middle East after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and service officials began crafting plans for a larger, more capable design, dubbed the Block 20/30, that was ...

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