The first of two
production Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles began flying
missions in support of the global war on terrorism within hours of
arriving in theater earlier this month.
The aircraft -- managed by Wright-Pat's Aeronautical Systems
Center's Global Hawk Systems Group -- are part of the 12th
Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron at a forward-base
The two UAVs are named AF-4 and AF-5.
Just 36 hours after arriving on station, AF-5 flew its first
combat sortie, which lasted nearly 24 hours. During this initial
aerial reconnaissance flight, the Global Hawk's new production
integrated sensor suite performed flawlessly, booting up in half
the time of the advanced concept technology demonstration sensor,
AF-4's arrival at its new "home" was delayed a day due to bad
weather along its flight route. But it landed safely on Jan.
"We are extremely excited to have these two aircraft in the
hands of our warfighters," said Randy Brown, Global Hawk Systems
"This is a major
milestone in the program and one that is historical for the future
of Air Force reconnaissance. There have been a number of
improvements to the program, and I'm very proud of the work that
everyone here has done to make this a reality."
While still in the advanced concept technology demonstration
stage, Global Hawk delivered more than 15,000 images to Air Force
and joint warfighting commanders and flew more than 5,000 combat
hours in the global war on terrorism. Even with these successes,
there have been recent challenges with the aircraft.
In October, AF-4 diverted to an alternate location because it
lost satellite communication during a sortie. Once the problem was
identified, fixed and tested, the aircraft was sent back up and has
since performed flawlessly, officials said.
"Even with the Satcom problem, the Global Hawk's software flew
exactly like it was supposed to on the diversion," Mr. Brown
"It recognized the problem, changed course and landed fine at
its alternate location. There are many redundancies on these
aircraft that enable them to be programmed for missions, and then
sent on their way."
Global Hawks were deployed after the terrorist attacks of Sept.
11, 2001. Since then, prototype aircraft have flown nearly
continuous combat missions in support of global war on terrorism,
logging more than 233 missions and a combined 8,000 flight hours.
[ANN Salutes Capt. Bob Everdeen, Aeronautical Systems Center Public