Ten Years and Counting

The Air Force’s RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle, built by Northrop Grumman, celebrated its 10th anniversary of flight Feb. 28. On that date in 1998 a Global Hawk prototype made history when it flew for one hour over Edwards AFB, Calif., climbing to an altitude of 32,000 feet. Fast forward 10 years later and the aircraft fleet, now in a much more refined fashion, has logged more than 20,000 flight hours, of which 15,000 have been flown in support of combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq since late 2001 when developmental models were sent to the region to help out in Afghanistan. The Global Hawk cruises at altitudes up to 65,000 feet and can stay aloft for more than 30 hours to peer down through any weather to provide commanders with real-time imagery of large geographic areas. “Global Hawk continues to prove its versatility and persistence by providing critical intelligence to Airmen, Marines and soldiers on the ground,” said Brig. Gen. H.D. Polumbo, commander of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale AFB, Calif., the Global Hawk’s main operating base, in Northrop Grumman’s Feb. 29 release. “It is a combat-proven, strategic capability with the tactical flexibility to survey large geographic areas, whether supporting overseas military operations or domestic civil missions like last year’s wildfires in Southern California.” (Includes Edwards report by A1C Stacy Sanchez)