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