Northrop Delivers First Global Hawk Fuselage

"The half-section and the mid-section, I spliced them together," Tony Griffith said as he showed off a 40-foot fuselage.

Tony Griffith is a Structural Mechanic at Northrop Grumman.

"Yeah, yeah, pretty proud," Griffith said. "Just knowing that I did that. I had something to do with putting this plane together. I wish I could see it fly."

Within two years, it should be ready to fly surveillance missions over Iraq and Afghanistan. The fuselage is the body of what will become the Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance plane. It will be equipped with high-tech cameras and sensors. The fuselage is the first ever built at the new Northrop Grumman UAV plant in Moss Point. Four more pieces will be delivered by the end of the year.

"In the face of the country's worst natural disaster, this facility and this project stayed on course," said George Freeland with the Jackson County Economic Development Foundation.

During a send-off celebration Thursday, Jackson County leaders and Northrop executives thanked the 100-employees for their commitment.

"I had some concerns and there's always some risk," said Northrop Executive Tommy Tomlinson. "I can tell you this work force completely minimized or reduced or eliminated that risk with that vehicle being on that truck."

"We told you then that you would have Jackson County's commitment to your UAV business plan," Freeland said. "You had it then. You have it now. You will always have that commitment."

The employees cheered as they unveiled a large banner that read "The fight begins here. Global Hawk starts here."

As the first fuselage was loaded-up, bound for Palmdale, California, Tony Griffith and his co-workers gathered for a picture and share a proud moment in Jackson County history.

"What you're doing here is significant," Freeland told the group. "Thank you so much for what you mean to the community."

In December, Northrop Grumman will start building the first of five Global Hawk aircraft for the German Air Force. And the company is competing for a contract to build Global Hawk planes for the U.S. Navy.