RQ-4 Global Hawk
The Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) began operational service in 2000 and remains in service with the United States Air Force. The Global Hawk is a high-altitude aircraft that has been used extensively for acquiring reconnaissance images in the Iraq War. These high-resolution images are received by battlefield commanders in almost real-time. The Global Hawk flies pre-determined flight plans and has the ability to take off, fly, remain on station, and return for landing without any human operators or assistance. Flight plans can also be modified in progress as the mission demands or personnel require.
The Global Hawk’s first trans-oceanic flight to Europe was in April 2000. It was also used that year in operations that included personnel from numerous branches of the military deployed in various environments, including sea, sub-surface, land, and air.
Equipment used by the Global Hawk includes a cloud-penetrating radar operated moving target indicator and infrared sensors that work together to provide near real-time imagery of up to 40,000 nautical square miles. Total mission time is often for a period of 24 hours after which it can be programmed to automatically return to base. Though its fuselage is constructed of aluminum, nearly half of the Global Hawk is built with composite materials including the wings, wing fairings, its three radomes, the engine intake and cover, and the empennage. The composite construction provides extra strength but weighs less than conventional materials. Because of its lighter weight, the aircraft gains fuel efficiency.
Though the Global Hawk has successfully flown hundreds of missions, it continues to undergo testing in advance of future missions. Manufacturing of the UAV is expected to continue through 2015. Eventually, the Global Hawk will be turned over to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) takes possession of the airplanes. NOAA will use the Global Hawk to study Earth’s climate changes.
Speed: 340 kts
Range: 12,000 nm
Height: 15′ 2″
Maximum weight: 25,600 pounds
Empty weight: 8,490 pounds
Engine(s): One Rolls Royce Allison Turbofan engine
Cruise speed: 404 mph