Global Hawk UAS on display at GFK – photo by Ed Scherpinsky
The newest addition to our terminal building is a 1/5 scale model of the Northrup Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk, which we are proudly displaying in our north lobby. Northrup Grumman has a presence at the Grand Forks Air Force Base and we are very appreciative of their generous offer to allow us display this model in our terminal. The Global Hawk was accompanied by the following narrative:
Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk
An Eye in the Sky
On the morning of September 11, 2001, America found itself in a new kind of war. The terrorist attacks that day in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. were not launched by a nation state, but followers of an ideology that operated across borders and often in some of the most remote regions of the world. For this new kind of fight, the United States needed a new way to gather intelligence.
Enter the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk, a High Altitude, Long Endurance (HALE) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS). By November of 2001, this unmanned aircraft was patrolling the skies above Afghanistan, collecting vital intelligence for troops on the ground. Global Hawk provides military field commanders with persistent near-real-time high-resolution collection over large geographic areas, while operating from bases at a long distance from the targeted collection area.
In the years since it first took flight, the United States Air Force has employed the Global Hawk system in all types of operations, from sensitive peacekeeping missions to full-scale combat. It was the primary intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance (ISR) contingency for operations during the Libya conflict in 2011 and for response to disasters such as the Haiti earthquake in 2010, the Japan Tsunami in 2011 and the Philippine Island typhoon in 2013. Some models, such as the Block 10 are now primarily used by NASA for scientific research and by the US Navy for maritime patrol. They can fly above the eye of a hurricane or over the polar ice caps without endangering a pilot. The aircraft are equally effective in tracking vessels for the US Navy. The USAF now has larger versions of the Global Hawk flying ISR and Communications Relay operational missions throughout the world. The US Navy is developing a larger version called Triton for future world-wide maritime patrol operations. NATO is developing a small fleet of Global Hawks in their Alliance Ground Surveillance system.
Like any aircraft, the Global Hawk has a pilot – they just don’t sit in the cockpit. As an unmanned system, Global Hawk is controlled remotely. The Global Hawk system includes a ground segment with a mission control element (MCE) where personnel operate the command and control, mission planning, imagery quality control, and communications functions of the system. The pilot and sensor operator manage the aircraft and its sensors from the MCE shelter, then send data and images to world-wide intelligence centers. Pilots in the launch and recovery element (LRE) load the autonomous flight mission plan into the air vehicle and monitor the operation of the aircraft during its automatic takeoff and landing. Most Global Hawk pilots are based in Beale Air Force Base in California and Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota.
Global Hawk UAS model in GFK’s terminal – photo by Ed Scherpinsky
About this Aircraft
This is a model of a Global Hawk Block 30. The Block 30 carries sophisticated imaging and electronic signals sensors on missions that can exceed 30 hours and collects detailed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) information across huge areas of land.
Grand Forks Air Force Base is the home operating base for a different Global Hawk model, the Block 40. The Block 40 has the unique capability to monitor large areas in all weather with the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP) sensor, which is an advanced air-to-surface radar for wide area surveillance of fixed and moving targets. MP-RTIP provides game-changing situational awareness and targeting information for warfighters.