prototype of the RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial reconnaissance
system reached its 7,000th total flight hour on June 22 during a
combat mission supporting the global war on terrorism. The US Air
Force's fleet of Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has
now flown more than 4,300 hours in combat.
The currently deployed Global Hawk UAV is a prototype system
from the advanced-concept technology-demonstration phase of the
program. It was originally built to prove the viability of a
high-altitude, long-endurance autonomous UAV, not to sustain the
rigorous flight schedule of an operational deployment. That plan
changed, however, after Sept. 11, 2001 when the Air Force requested
that Global Hawk deploy immediately to provide image-based
information for Operation Enduring Freedom.
"The use of the advanced-concept technology-demonstration
vehicles to support the global war on terrorism has proven the
durability of the Global Hawk system and its ability to meet
warfighters' needs for critical intelligence, surveillance and
reconnaissance data," said George Guerra, Northrop Grumman's Air
Force Global Hawk program manager. "Its deployment has also allowed
us to identify and incorporate key system enhancements into the
Through three deployments in support of the war on terrorism,
the six prototype Global Hawk aircraft have successfully completed
more than 200 missions. The Air Force has requested that two of the
production-version RQ-4A Global Hawks be ready to deploy at the end
of the summer.
Global Hawk flies autonomously at an altitude of 65,000 feet,
above inclement weather and prevailing winds for more than 35
hours. During a single mission, it provides detailed intelligence,
surveillance and reconnaissance information on a 40,000 square mile
area in near-real time.