The Global Hawk is a strategic long-endurance, high-altitude, “deep look” ISR platform complementing satellite and manned ISR.
It is capable of imagery, SIGINT, and ground moving target indication (GMTI), depending on variant. The system consists of the aircraft and sensors, launch and recovery element (LRE), mission control element (MCE), and comms/ mission planning cell.
The pre-production Block 10 debuted in combat in 2001 and retired in 2011. Block 20 was initially equipped with the Enhanced Integrated Sensor Suite (EISS) for imagery intelligence (IMINT). Five were converted as EQ-4B Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) relays, and four are active following a loss replacement in 2018.
Block 30 is a multi-intelligence platform equipped with EO/IR, SAR, and SIGINT sensors. It is also equipped with a universal payload adapter that enables (previously) U-2-unique payloads including the MS-117 and SYERS II EO sensors, and a wet-film Optical Bar Camera to be carried. The Airborne Signals Intelligence Payload (ASIP) was only installed on three of the 11 planned airframes.
Block 40 is a ground-moving target surveillance platform equipped with the Multiplatform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP). Its AESA and SAR simultaneously conduct moving target and cruise missile tracking, as well as stationary imagery collection.
USAF announced plans to retire the EQ-4B and RQ-4B Block 30, retaining only the Block 40. FY21 funds shift to supporting and modernizing Block 40, including a design study aimed at integrating a modular ISR payload adapter.
USAF conducted the first RQ-4 flight using the new, modernized ground control station in 2020.
Contractors: Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, L3Harris.
First Flight: Feb. 28, 1998.
Delivered: August 2003-present.
IOC: August 2011 (Block 30); August 2016 (Block 40).
Production: 45 (USAF).
Inventory: 33; four (Block 20); 19 (Block 30); 10 (Block 40).
Operator: ACC, AFMC.
Aircraft Location: Beale AFB, Calif. (Block 30); Edwards AFB, Calif.; Grand Forks AFB, N.D. (Block 20/40); forward operating locations: Ali Al Salem AB, Kuwait (EQ-4B); Andersen AFB, Guam; NAS Sigonella, Italy; Yokota AB, Japan.
Active Variants: •EQ-4B Block 20. Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) comm relay platform. •RQ-4B Block 30. Multi-intelligence platform equipped with EO/IR and SAR sensors. •RQ-4B Block 40. AESA and SAR equipped ground moving target indication (GMTI) and battlefield ISR platform.
Dimensions: Span 130.9 ft, length 47.6 ft, height 15.3 ft.
Weight: Max T-O 32,250 lb; max payload 3,000 lb.
Power Plant: One Rolls-Royce North American F137-RR-100 turbofan, 7,600 lb thrust.
Performance: Speed 356.5 mph, range 14,150 miles, endurance 32+ hrs (24 hrs on-station loiter at 1,200 miles).
Ceiling: 60,000 ft.
Accommodation: LRE Pilot, MCE pilot, MCE sensor operator (operating from LRE/MCE).