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Thu, Mar 06, 2008

Global Hawk UAV Marks 10-Year Anniversary

Officials See A Long Future For Unmanned Aircraft

A Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle landed after an eight-hour mission February 28, marking 10 years since base officials witnessed its first flight at Edwards Air Force Base.

On that first flight, the aircraft flew for one hour at an altitude of 32,000 feet; today, the Global Hawk has logged more than 20,000 flight hours including 15,000 hours flown in support of the war on terrorism.

The high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial reconnaissance system is designed to provide commanders with real-time imagery of large geographic areas. The Global Hawk can reach an altitude up to 65,000 feet and loiter for more than 30 hours.

The Global Hawk performed its first flight at Edwards because of the Air Force Flight Test Center's proximity to Northrop Grumman facility in San Diego and its easy access to restricted airspace. During its first flight, Tom Bryson, the 452nd Flight Test Squadron deputy manager for engineering support, was a safety chase driver and had the opportunity to see the UAV and it capabilities.

"I had a front-row seat of this amazing aircraft," Bryson said. "I was totally amazed to see its capabilities."

The development of the Global Hawk has been phenomenal in the short amount of time they have had it at Edwards, he added. "The significance of 10 years to this point in time is just amazing because we went from an unproven UAV to a very successful first flight here," Bryson said.

Though still in the developmental stage, the Global Hawk was deployed in Afghanistan in 2001 to support of the war on terrorism.

"None of us anticipated September 11, 2001, and during that time, the Global Hawk was at a critical stage in its development," Bryson said. "But the Global Hawk did what it was built to do, and on its first night it saved several lives."

The Global Hawk system is providing vital intelligence to the warfighter, said Lt. Col. Andy Thurling, the 452nd Flight Test Squadron commander. "The Global Hawk provides a persistent 'eye in the sky' that saves Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen's lives, and helps them take the fight to our enemies."

Tom Wayne, 452nd Flight Test Squadron Northrop Grumman deputy flight test manager and Global Hawk pilot, said he was impressed with the aircraft's performance during its first flight and foresees great things for the UAV in the next 10 years.

"At first, I had mixed feelings as a Global Hawk pilot since we are flying the aircraft on the ground as the UAV is up in the sky, but after seeing its capabilities during the first flight here, I was amazed," Wayne said. "Being a Global Hawk pilot does have its satisfaction because we are breaking new grounds here. I am doing something new in aviation."

Bryson said Edwards AFB officials have the pleasure of seeing Global Hawk's first, second and third generation, and he is looking forward to see what's in store in the years to come.

"Not only will we still be providing support for the (war on terrorism), but we will also be providing new capabilities for the military," he said. "The future for unmanned vehicles is unlimited."

(Aero-News salutes Airman 1st Class Stacy Sanchez, 95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs)



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