The Air Force’s Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle, operated by the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale AFB, Calif., covered last year’s California wildfires and, adding to its homeland defense repertoire, this year Global Hawk has supported hurricane watch activity along the Gulf Coast. Ed Walby, head of Global Hawk business development for the UAV-maker Northrop Grumman, told reporters at AFA’s Air & Space Conference Monday that a Block 10 Global Hawk had just flown a Navy support mission during Hurricane Ike, responding to a tasking from US Northern Command. The near 25-hour mission provided imagery passed along to first responders and local officials who were organizing rescue and recovery efforts. “This is kind of a new thing for an unmanned system to go into a disaster area and operate alongside manned aircraft,” Walby said. Most weather pans out between 30,000 and 40,000 feet, he said, which makes Global Hawk ideally situated to the mission as it sits well above the system and can get a clear “god’s eye view” of the entire event. As the size of the fleet expands to include operators in the Air National Guard, he predicted homeland defense missions will be a growing segment of the UAV’s operations.
Robins Air Force Base, Ga., has completed two environmental reviews, clearing the way for new construction to support the bases four new missions sets, which will replace the E-8 Joint STARS mission that has defined the base for decades.