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