A division of Northrop Grumman Corp. been award a $325 million contract expansion from the Air Force to provide additional unmanned aerial vehicles used to support U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon said late Thursday.

Los Angeles-based Northrop, which is the largest supplier of unmanned aircraft to the U.S. military, have been told to build five more Global Hawk drones, as well as related sensors and launch-and-recovery equipment, according to a Department of Defense release.

The Global Hawk is designed to fly up to 65,000 feet for more than 35 hours.
During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the plane supplied 55 percent of the data used to destroy air defenses.

Northrop earlier this week received a blow when the Pentagon decided to reopen competition to build the Air Force's next-generation refueling tanker, citing problems with the Air Force's handling of the initial $35 billion contract process.

The Pentagon's chief weapons buyer told a congressional subcommittee on Thursday that the military will try but it cannot guarantee it can select a winner by January, according to Reuters.

Northrop shares were down $1.11 cents, or almost 2 percent to $64.59 on mid-day trading Friday on the New York Stock Exchange.

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