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Sat, Nov 15, 2008

Edwards AFB Squadron 'Test Drives' Global Hawk

Maintainers Assist In Readying RQ-4s For Duty

Members of the 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base "test drive" the Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system, and ensure the aircraft is up to par with advertised specifications. Squadron personnel evaluate the operational effectiveness and suitability of advanced Air Combat Command weapon systems, one of which is the Global Hawk.

Squadron members bring the maintainer's perspective to the table, said Tech. Sgt. Joe Gambles, a 31st TES Global Hawk test and evaluator.

"As a maintainer, we can say whether or not this might be suitable for testing or recommend improvements," Sergeant Gambles said.

Another unseen part of the Global Hawk system is the ground station, which also needs test driving. This is the control center where the "pilot" sits, receiving, processing and transmitting imagery. The 31st TES Global Hawk ground segment suitability evaluation team ensures it does its job.

"We look at the communication systems, including the antennas, transmitters and receivers," said Tech. Sgt. Paul Lockwood, the ground segment suitability evaluation noncommissioned officer in charge. "We keep the ground station in top shape. If the ground station is not functioning, the airplane doesn't fly. We have to make sure the communication links are at the best quality and the computers are up and running."

Since Global Hawk is a UAS, there can be a "disconnect" in informing the maintainers if there is something wrong with the aircraft.

"The pilots maintain a log of anything abnormal that happens during the flight," Sergeant Lockwood said. "They will determine what is wrong with the aircraft and relay the information to the maintainers."

Working in a UAS test environment is a big change from operational experience, said Master Sgt. Ching Foster, the 31st TES Global Hawk suitability superintendent.

"In the operational world, our ground segment personnel are separated from maintainers," Sergeant Foster said. "This is a very new experience for us. We work together in the test environment. It is a great opportunity to learn from one another about the various aspects of each other's career."

The 31st TES works as a Combined Test Force with the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center, the 452nd Flight Test Squadron, Northrop Grumman and other test agencies.

FMI: www.af.mil

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