The Global Hawk unmanned aerial system continues to prove its utility and effectiveness in the global war on terror, having flown more than 10,500 flight hours by late July. The Global Hawk achieved 10,000 flight hours in June, with its ratio of combat flying hours to non-combat hours increasing to 63 percent of total flight hours.
Managed by the 303rd Aeronautical Systems Group at Aeronautical Systems Center here, Global Hawk is proving a popular asset. Its mounting flight hours underscore the unmanned aerial system’s prominent and growing operational role and constitute a key acquisition success.
“This milestone demonstrates how the Air Force has successfully taken a demonstration program and turned it into a war-winning capability,” said Randy Brown, director of the 303rd Aeronautical Systems Group. “No other system provides the persistent, real-time surveillance that Global Hawk does,” he explained. “Its ability to loiter where needed for 24 hours or more and provide information to the warfighter is unprecedented.”
Illustrating the program’s unique acquisition status and responsiveness to operational requirements, the Global Hawk is advancing through multiple acquisition stages simultaneously. The system is in low rate initial production with capabilities being integrated as they are developed. Global Hawk has entered the sustainment phase with systems supporting combat and is undergoing test and evaluation as well.
“We’re in four acquisition stages at the same time – development, test, production and sustainment,” said Brown. “That’s pretty impressive for an acquisition program that was just approved in fiscal year 2001.”
The last Block 10 production aircraft recently arrived at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., for a series of acceptance and operational check flights by the 452nd Flight Test Squadron before delivery to the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. The 12th RS operates the Global Hawk.
Northrop Grumman, the prime contractor, is producing a larger Global Hawk, with Block 20, 30 and 40 aircraft to possess greater capability, including a 50 percent increase in payload capacity.
Reflecting the program’s joint nature, the Air Force helped the Navy purchase two Global Hawks for the Navy’s Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration program. The Navy used a Global Hawk during Exercise Trident Warrior ’05 last November and December and in an Air Force-led demonstration in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility in February and March this year.
The Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration program participated virtually in the Joint Expeditionary Forces Experiment this spring and will take part in the Rim of the Pacific exercise – the world’s largest international maritime exercise – this month. The maritime demonstrations are planned through fiscal year 2011 as the Navy refines Broad Area Maritime Surveillance tactics, techniques and procedures.
The Global Hawk unmanned aerial system provides battlefield commanders with near-real-time, high-resolution intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance imagery. Cruising at altitudes up to 65,000 feet, Global Hawk can survey large geographic areas with pinpoint accuracy to give military decision makers current information about enemy location, resources and personnel.
Article courtesy of US Department of Defense/Aeronautical Systems Center Public Affairs