Milestone Highlights Recent Accomplishments
The increasingly ever-present RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial
system built by Northrop Grumman recently completed its 1,000th
flight. The fourth production Global Hawk, designated AF-4, flew
the milestone mission June 14-15 in support of the global war on
"AF-4 cruised at extremely high altitudes for more than 18 hours
without refueling -- a feat that very few aircraft, manned or
unmanned, have matched thus far," said Gary Ervin, vice president
for Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector.
This was the 517th combat mission flight for the Global Hawks,
which have logged more than 10,700 combat hours, accounting for 71
percent of the program's total flight time of 15,135 hours.
"Global Hawk's GWOT support has been outstanding, with two Block
10 variants currently deployed and surging with 20-hour missions,
with only four hours between recovery and the subsequent launch,"
said Randy Brown, Global Hawk program director with the U.S. Air
Force's 303rd Aeronautical Systems Group at Wright-Patterson Air
Force Base in Ohio. "This achievement and the system's excellent
track record reaffirm what we already know -- the Global Hawk is a
highly reliable, flexible and cost-effective intelligence,
surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) weapons system that meets the
needs of our troops on the battlefield."
Since its initial deployment immediately after September 11,
2001, the Global Hawk program has maintained a 95 percent or better
mission effectiveness, according to Northrop Grumman. Out of the
277 combat missions flown since January 2006 until its 1,000th
flight, only 11 have been canceled due to maintenance, weather, or
Another significant accomplishment this year occurred when three
Global Hawks were airborne simultaneously on Feb. 21 and April 24.
In both instances, Global Hawk AF-5 flew a GWOT mission in the
Middle East while AF-7 flew a series of flight tests from
California's Edwards Air Force Base. At the same time, another
Global Hawk, N-1, flew from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD.
N-1 is one of two US Navy aircraft designated for the Global Hawk
Maritime Demonstration (GHMD) program.
"From these three sites, the aircraft could have reached any
point on the planet and provided persistent ISR and returned to
their respective home base," said Jerry Madigan, Northrop Grumman
vice president of high-altitude long-endurance systems. "The Feb.
21 flight marked the first time the GHMD program exercised Global
Hawk's certificate of authorization from the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) to operate outside of the restricted area into
Another important milestone for the GHMD program took place
April 11 when Global Hawk N-1 provided surveillance support for the
Navy's Commander Carrier Strike Group One Ship Sinking Exercise
(CCSG-1 SINKEX) at NAS Patuxent River, taking 114 near-real-time
images in approximately eight hours.
The CCSG-1 SINKEX sortie featured several firsts for GHMD,
including the first night launch, first maximum-weight launch from
NAS Patuxent River, and the first GHMD operations in the Atlantic
Ocean. It was also the longest-ranging GHMD flight flown from NAS
Patuxent River to date.