Global Hawk Upgraded For 24-Hour ISR Capability

  • Our Bureau
  • 04:03 PM, September 24, 2015
  • 2842

Northrop Grumman's RQ-4 Global Hawk has been upgraded to deliver round-the-clock intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and communication support to ground forces and aerial platforms conducting missions in Operation Inherent Resolve.

The maintainers, assigned to the 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, are responsible for maintaining and ensuring the RQ-4 Global Hawk, USAF announced today.

“The unmanned surveillance aircraft provides imagery intelligence and signals intelligence and delivers it to warfighters and decision makers,” Master Sgt. Matthew, lead production superintendent said.

“It’s constantly taking imagery and feeding it back for analysis. It can be used to identify a friendly forces or enemies, or do long-term target development and even track where enemies are moving equipment.” He said.

Being able to provide near real-time coverage has enabled combatant commanders to act on better information and make key decisions, which impact coalition forces combating the IS militants. But it also provides a crucial element to the frontlines that is critical to campaign success.

“One of the many things the Global Hawk uses is the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node [BACN] which is a system that essentially provides Wi-Fi to the battlefield,” said Master Sgt. Matthew.

“It allows ground troops to contact aircraft when they’re in need of assistance, such as close air support.”  Mathew added.

The Global Hawk is operated by two different cells, the Launch and Recovery Element as well as the Mission Control Element.

The Launch and Recovery Element performs maintenance and prepares the aircraft for flight with a small group of pilots launching and landing the Global Hawk through line-of-sight capabilities in the area of responsibility.

Once the aircraft is airborne and a link is established with the Mission Control Element, the controls are passed over.

“We have two pieces to the puzzle; the ground control station and the aircraft. We’re running two aircraft systems that we have to bring together for a launch,” said Master Sgt. Matthew.

The cockpit is geographically separated from the aircraft. It has to be extremely precise so the cockpit can link with the aircraft.

While most aircraft missions last eight to ten hours, the Global Hawk offers extraordinary range and flexibility to meet mission requirements. The unmanned aircraft can perform missions which last up to 30 hours.

“When the aircraft sorties last that long, scheduled maintenance comes sooner,” said Senior Airman Marty. “However, the aircraft flies at high altitudes and comes back less worn than other aircraft. It’s different compared to maintaining other jets.” He added.

Recently, a Global Hawk set a record for completing a 32.5 hour combat sortie. 

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