Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk: NATO’s new cutting-edge spy drones

The Nato military alliance has just received its first cutting-edge spy drones called Global Hawks reports BBC news.

The Global Hawks help commanders on the ground identify potential threats to Nato members – with one single drone able to watch over a territory the size of Poland.

Global Hawk was developed by Ryan Aeronautical, now part of Northrop Grumman, to meet a US Air Force requirement for broad area overland surveillance, akin to the job done by the Lockheed U-2.

The RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system (UAS) is the premier provider of persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information. Able to fly at high altitudes for greater than 30 hours, Global Hawk is designed to gather near-real-time, high-resolution imagery of large areas of land in all types of weather – day or night. Beyond intelligence collection a portion of the Global Hawk fleet is engaged in supporting air and ground users with communications relay support. The EQ-4B Global Hawk carries the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) payload providing life-saving support to warfighters.

Global Hawk has amassed more than 250,000 flight hours with missions flown in support of military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, North Africa, and the greater Asia-Pacific region. The system provides an affordable and flexible platform for multiple sensor payloads to be used together, delivering mission-critical information to various users around the world.

The first Global Hawk flew in February 1998. The aircraft’s ability to fly intercontinental distances was amply demonstrated in April 2001 with a nonstop flight from Edwards USAF base to RAAF Edinburgh, covering 13,219 kilometres in 22 hours.

Global Hawk’s only official visit to Australia was in April 2001, touching down at RAAF Edinburgh amid a blaze of publicity as it completed a record-breaking 14,000-kilometre flight across the Pacific from California.

That was the first pilotless aircraft to cross the Pacific and a world record for absolute distance flown by a UAV and this impressive capability piqued Australia’s interest in an unmanned aircraft able to conduct broad area maritime surveillance (BAMS).

So too did the US Navy and in 2008, a “navalised” Global Hawk won the US Navy BAMS contest against contenders from Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

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