RQ-4 Global Hawk

RQ-4 Global Hawk

infobox Aircraft
name = RQ-4 Global Hawk

caption =
type = Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
national origin = United States
manufacturer = Northrop Grumman
first flight =
introduction =
retired =
status =
primary user = United States Air Force
more users = United States Navy
produced =
number built =
program cost=
unit cost = US$123.2 million
developed from =
variants with their own articles =

The Northrop Grumman (formerly Ryan Aeronautical) RQ-4 Global Hawk (known as Tier II+ during development) is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) used by the United States Air Force as a surveillance aircraft.



In role and designFact|date=October 2008, it is similar to the Lockheed U-2, the venerable 1950s spy plane. It is a theater commander's asset to both provide a broad overview and systematically target surveillance shortfalls. The Global Hawk air vehicle is able to provide high resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)—that can penetrate cloud-cover and sandstorms—and Electro-Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) imagery at long range with long loiter times over target areas. It can survey as much as 40,000 square miles (100,000 square kilometers) of terrain a day. If a Global Hawk were flown out from San Francisco, it would be able to operate in Maine for 24 hours, observe a 230 X 230 mile (370 x 370 kilometer) grid, and then fly back home.

Potential missions for the Global Hawk cover the spectrum of intelligence collection capability to support forces in worldwide peace, crisis, and wartime operations. According to the Air Force, the capabilities of the aircraft will allow more precise targeting of weapons and better protection of forces through superior surveillance capabilities.

The "R" is the Department of Defense designation for reconnaissance; "Q" means unmanned aircraft system. The "4" refers to it being the fourth of a series of purpose-built unmanned aircraft systems.

The Global Hawk costs about $35 million USD each [ [http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/2005/04/143m-for-global-hawk-cost-overruns/index.php "$143M for Global Hawk Cost Overruns", "Defense Industry Daily", April 25, 2005] ] (actual per-aircraft costs; with development costs also included, the per-aircraft cost rises to $123.2 million USD each [ [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A41769-2004Dec6.html "Price of Global Hawk Surveillance Program Rises" "Washington Post", December 7, 2004] ] ).

United States Air Force

The first seven aircraft were built under the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) program, in order to evaluate the design and its capabilities. Due to world circumstances, the capabilities of the aircraft were in high demand, so the prototype aircraft were operated in theater in the War in Afghanistan.

In an unusual move, the aircraft entered initial low-rate production concurrently while still in engineering and manufacturing development. Nine production Block 10 aircraft (sometimes referred to as RQ-4A configuration) were produced, two of which were transferred to the US Navy. Two more were sent to Iraq to support operations there. The final Block 10 aircraft was delivered on 26 June, 2006. [" [http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Last_Block_10_Global_Hawk_Arrives_For_Check_Flights.html Last Block 10 Global Hawk Arrives For Check Flights] ."]

In order to increase the aircraft's capabilities, the airframe was redesigned, with the nose section and wings being stretched. The changes, with the designation RQ-4 Block 20, allow the aircraft to carry up to 3,000 pounds of internal payload. These changes were introduced with the first Block 20 aircraft, the 17th Global Hawk produced, which was rolled out in a ceremony on August 25, 2006. ["Northrop unveils next generation Global Hawk", "Aerotech News and Review", September 1, 2006] First flight of the Block 20 from the USAF Plant 42 in Palmdale, CA to Edwards AFB took place on March 1, 2007. Developmental testing of Block 20 is scheduled for 2007 and 2008. Future Block 30 and 40 aircraft, similar in size to the Block 20, are scheduled for development from 2008 to 2010. [McGee, Chris, "Global Hawk in demand, passes 10,000 flight hours milestone", "Aerotech News and Review", August 11, 2006]

Cost overruns

Program development cost overruns had put the Global Hawk system at risk of cancellation. Per-unit costs in mid-2006 were 25% over baseline estimates, caused by both the need to correct design deficiencies as well as increase the system's capabilities. This caused some concerns about a possible congressional termination of the program if its national security benefits could not be justified. [ [http://www.flightglobal.com/Articles/2006/04/18/Navigation/177/206015/Cost+overruns+put+Global+Hawk+at+risk.html "Flight" article, April 18, 2006] ] [ [http://www.sbac.co.uk/community/cms/content/preview/news_item_view.asp?i=10233&t=0 "Cost overruns put Global Hawk at risk", SBAC.com] However, in June 2006, the Global Hawk program was restructured. Completion of an operational assessment report by the Air Force was slipped due to manufacturing and development delays from August 2005 to November 2007. The operational assessment report was released in March 2007 and production of the 54 air vehicles planned has been extended by two years to 2015. [ [http://www.flightglobal.com/Articles/2006/11/21/Navigation/196/210621/Global+Hawk+costs+soar+to+%2410bn.html "Flight" article, November 21, 2006] ]

United States Navy

The United States Navy took delivery of two of the Block 10 aircraft to be used to evaluate maritime surveillance capabilities, designated N-1. The initial example, tail number 166509, was tested in a naval configuration at Edwards Air Force Base for several months, later ferrying to NAS Patuxent River on March 28, 2006 to begin the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD) program. Navy squadron VX-20 was tasked with operating the GHMD system." [http://www.aviationnow.com/avnow/news/channel_aerospacedaily_story.jsp?id=news/ghawk10014.xml U.S. Navy To Receive First Global Hawk Next Week] ." Selinger, M. "Aviation Week & Space Technology". October 1, 2004.] [ [http://www.defenselink.mil/transformation/articles/2006-03/ta033006a.html First Unmanned Global Hawk Delivered to U.S. Navy - U.S. Department of Defense Transformation News Story ] ] [ [http://www.dcmilitary.com/navy/tester/11_13/local_news/40450-1.html] Dead link|date=March 2008]

In the spring of 2006, the GHMD aircraft took part in a demonstration of the type's ability to conduct maritime drug interdiction surveillance, completing four flights over the Caribbean and off the coast of Florida, locating and identifying numerous airborne and surface targets. ["Northrop unveils next generation Global Hawk", "Aerotech News and Review", September 1, 2006]

The GHMD aircraft flew in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise for the first time in July, 2006. Although RIMPAC operations were in the vicinity of Hawaii, the aircraft was operated from Edwards, requiring flights of approximately convert|2500|mi|km each way to the operations area. Four flights were performed, resulting in over 24 hours of persistent maritime surveillance coordinated with USS "Abraham Lincoln" and "Bonhomme Richard". As a part of the demonstration program, Global Hawk was tasked with maintenance of maritime situational awareness, contact tracking, and imagery support of various exercise operations. The imagery obtained by Global Hawk was transmitted to NAS Patuxent River for processing before being forwarded on to the fleet operations off Hawaii, thus exercising the global nature of this aircraft's operations. ["Navy Global Hawk Performs in RIMPAC", "Aerotech News and Review", August 18, 2006]

Northrop Grumman entered a version of the RQ-4B in the US Navy's Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAV contract competition. On 22 April 2008 the announcement was made that the Northrop Grumman RQ-4N had won the bid, with the Navy awarding a contract worth $1.16 billion. [ [http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=11856 Navy Awards Northrop Grumman Unmanned Aircraft System Contract] ]


In December 2007, two Global Hawks were transferred from the U.S. Air Force to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base. Initial research activities beginning in 2009 will support NASA's Airborne Science Program. The two Global Hawks were the first and sixth aircraft built under the original Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration program sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and were made available to NASA when the Air Force had no further need for them. [http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=24341 NASA Dryden Receives Two Early Global Hawk Aircraft] ]


The German Luftwaffe has ordered a variant of the RQ-4B equipped with European sensors, dubbed EuroHawk. It combines a normal RQ-4B airframe with an EADS reconnaissance payload.

The aircraft is based on the Block 20/30/40 RQ-4B, but will be equipped with EADS' SIGINT package to fulfil Germany's desire to replace their aging Dassault-Breguet Atlantique electronic surveillance aircraft.Fact|date=August 2008 A first batch of 5 EuroHawks will be delivered for the Luftwaffe from 2010 on.

The costs for the initial five aircraft are approx. €430 million for the development, and €430 million for the actual procurement.

Potential operators

Australia is considering the purchase of a number of Global Hawk aircraft for maritime and land surveillance. The Global Hawk will be assessed against the RQ-1 Mariner in trials planned for 2007. [ [http://www.flightglobal.com/Articles/2006/05/09/Navigation/177/206472/Australia+funds+study.html Australia funds study] . Flight International 09/05/06.] If selected the Global Hawk aircraft will be operated in conjunction with manned P-8A Poseidon aircraft by 10 and 11 Squadrons of the RAAF. This combination, or a similar one, will replace existing AP-3C Orion aircraft in 2018.

Canada is also a potential customer, looking at the Global Hawk for maritime and land surveillance as either a replacement for its fleet of CP-140 Aurora patrol aircraft or to supplement manned patrols of remote Arctic and maritime environments. Spain has a similar requirement, existing contacts with Northrop Grumman at this issue. [ [http://www.cincodias.com/articulo/empresas/Northrop/negocia/venta/aviones/espia/Espana/cdscdi/20070929cdscdiemp_15/Tes/ Northrop negocia la venta de diez aviones espía a España - CincoDias.com] ]

South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) had expressed interest in acquiring at least four RQ-4B and support equipment by 2011 to increase the intelligence capabilities of the South Korean military after the return of the Wartime Operational Control from the U.S. to ROK, and has allocated approximately USD$19m for evaluation purposes. There is ongoing debate among government officials on whether to take the US offer of Global Hawks or to press on with their domestic UAV development program.


The RQ-4 is powered by an Allison Rolls-Royce AE3007H turbofan engine with 7,050lbf (3,200 kgf / 31.4 kN) thrust, and carries a payload of 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms). The fuselage is mostly of conventional aluminum airframe construction, while the wings are made of carbon composite.

The Global Hawk is the first UAV to be certified by the FAA to file its own flight plans and use civilian air corridors in the United States with no advance notice." [http://www.spacedaily.com/news/uav-03zl.html FAA Clears Global Hawk For Routine Operation In US National Airspace] ." Space Daily. August 13, 2003.] This potentially paves the way for a revolution in unmanned flight, including that of remotely piloted cargo or passenger airliners.

Integrated system

The Global Hawk UAV system comprises an air vehicle segment consisting of air vehicles with sensor payloads, avionics, and data links; a ground segment consisting of a Launch and Recovery Element (LRE), and a Mission Control Element (MCE) with embedded ground communications equipment; a support element; and trained personnel.

The Integrated Sensor Suite (ISS) is provided by Raytheon and consists of a synthetic aperture radar (SAR), electro-optical (EO), and infrared (IR) sensors. Either the EO or the IR sensors can operate simultaneously with the SAR. Each of the sensors provides wide area search imagery and a high-resolution spot mode. The SAR has a ground moving target indicator (GMTI) mode, which can provide a text message providing the moving target's position and velocity. Both SAR and EO/IR imagery are processed onboard the aircraft and transmitted to the MCE as individual frames. The MCE can mosaic these frames into images prior to further dissemination.

Navigation is via inertial navigation with integrated Global Positioning System updates. Global Hawk is intended to operate autonomously and "untethered" using a satellite data link (either Ku or UHF) for sending sensor data from the aircraft to the MCE. The common data link can also be used for direct down link of imagery when the UAV is operating within line-of-sight of users with compatible ground stations.

The ground segment consists of a Mission Control Element (MCE) and Launch and Recovery Element (LRE), provided by Raytheon. The MCE is used for mission planning, command and control, and image processing and dissemination; an LRE for controlling launch and recovery; and associated ground support equipment. (The LRE provides precision differential global positioning system corrections for navigational accuracy during takeoff and landings, while precision coded GPS supplemented with an inertial navigation system is used during mission execution.) By having separable elements in the ground segment, the MCE and the LRE can operate in geographically separate locations, and the MCE can be deployed with the supported command's primary exploitation site. Both ground segments are contained in military shelters with external antennas for line-of-sight and satellite communications with the air vehicles.

ensor packages

The Global Hawk carries the "Hughes Integrated Surveillance & Reconnaissance (HISAR)" sensor system. HISAR is a lower-cost derivative of the ASARS-2 package that Hughes developed for the Lockheed U-2. HISAR is also fitted in the US Army's RC-7B Airborne Reconnaissance Low Multifunction (ARLM) manned surveillance aircraft, and is being sold on the international market. HISAR integrates a SAR-MTI system, along with an optical and an infrared imager. All three sensors are controlled and their outputs filtered by a common processor. The digital sensor data can be transmitted at up to 50 Mbit/s to a ground station in real time, either directly or through a communications satellite link.

The SAR-MTI system operates in the X-band and provides a number of operational modes:
* The wide-area MTI mode can detect moving targets within a radius of 62 miles (100 kilometers).
* The combined SAR-MTI strip mode provides 20 foot (6 meter) resolution over a swath 23 miles (37 kilometers) wide at ranges from 12.4 to 68 miles (20 to 110 kilometers).
* The SAR spot mode can provide 6 foot (1.8 meter) resolution over 3.8 square miles (10 square kilometers), as well as provide a sea-surveillance function.

The visible and infrared imagers share the same gimballed sensor package, and use common optics, providing a telescopic close-up capability. It can be optionally fitted with an auxiliary SIGINT package. To improve survivability, the Global Hawk is fitted with a Raytheon developed AN/ALR-89 self-protection suite consisting of the AN/AVR-3 Laser Warning System, AN/APR-49 Radar Warning Receiver and a jamming system. An ALE-50 towed decoy also aids in the Global Hawk's deception of enemy air defenses. ["Aerotech News and Review", vol 21, issue 27, August 4, 2006] [ [http://www.designation-systems.net/usmilav/jetds/an-alq2aly.html AN/ALQ to AN/ALT - Equipment Listing] ]

In July, 2006, the Air Force began testing segments of the improved Global Hawk Block 30 upgrades in the Benefield Anechoic Facility at Edwards AFB. This version incorporates an extremely sensitive SIGINT processor known as the Advanced Signals Intelligence Payload. ["Aerotech News and Review", vol 21, issue 27, August 4, 2006]

In September 2006, testing began on a new specialty radar system, the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program, or MP-RTIP, onboard the Scaled Composites Proteus. Once validated, one Global Hawk will be modified to carry this radar set, and the other, larger variant (known as the Wide-Area Surveillance or WAS sensor) will be installed on the Air Force E-10 MC2A testbed or E-8 Joint STARS aircraft.

Operational history

Air Force Global Hawk flight test evaluations are performed by the 452nd Flight Test Squadron at Edwards AFB. Operational aircraft are flown by the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, 12th Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale Air Force Base.

Global Hawk ATCD prototypes have been used in the War in Afghanistan and in the Iraq War. While their data-collection capabilities have been praised, the aircraft did suffer a high number of accidents, with two of the aircraft, more than one quarter of the aircraft used in the wars, being lost. According to Australian press reports, the crashes were due to "technical failures or poor maintenance", with a failure rate per hour flown over 100 times higher than the F-16 fighters flown in the same wars. The manufacturers stated that it was unfair to compare the failure rates of a mature design to that of a prototype plane, and pointed to a lack of trained maintenance staff and spare parts.


On March 21 2001, aircraft number 982003 set an official world endurance record for UAVs, at 30 hours, 24 minutes and 1 second, flying from Edwards. [ [http://records.fai.org/uav/history_absolute.asp?id1=3 FAI World Record data base] ] During the same flight, it set an absolute altitude record of m to ft|19928|precision=1, which was later broken by the NASA Helios Prototype (although the absolute record was broken, the Global Hawk's record still stands in its FAI class category). [ [http://records.fai.org/uav/aircraft.asp?id=2151 FAI Aviation World Record database] ]

On April 24 2001 a Global Hawk flew non-stop from Edwards Air Force Base in the US to RAAF Base Edinburgh in Australia, making history by being the first pilotless aircraft to cross the Pacific Ocean. The flight took 22 hours, and set a world record for absolute distance flown by a UAV, km to mi|13219.86|precision=2." [http://www.minister.defence.gov.au/Nelsontpl.cfm?CurrentId=628 Aviation history as Global Hawk completes US-Australia flight] ." Australian Ministry of Defence press release. April 24, 2001.] [ [http://records.fai.org/uav/history_absolute.asp?id1=2 FAI Aviation World Record database] ]


On December 30, 2001 a Global Hawk crashed in Afghanistan. [ [http://www.globalsecurity.org/org/news/2002/020108-attack03.htm Global Hawk crash unlikely to hurt program] ]

On July 10, 2002 a Global Hawk crashed in Pakistan due to an apparent engine failure. [ [http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,57382,00.html High-Altitude American Spy Plane Crashes in Pakistan; Engine Failure Cited] ]


;RQ-4A :;RQ-4B :;RQ-4N : For USN Broad Area Maritime Surveillance role.

Miniature variant

Scaled Composites and Northrop Grumman are also offering a 50% proportional shrink of the RQ-4A, currently known as the Model 396, as part of the USAF Hunter-Killer program.


* United States Air Force
** Air Combat Command
*** 9th Reconnaissance Wing - Beale Air Force Base, California
**** 12th Reconnaissance Squadron
*** 53d Wing
**** 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron - Edwards Air Force Base, California
** Air Force Reserve Command
*** 610th Regional Support Group
**** 13th Reconnaissance Squadron - Beale Air Force Base, California

* United States Navy

pecifications (RQ-4A)

met or eng?=eng
length m=13.5
length ft=44
length in=5
span m=35.4
span ft=116
span in=2
width m=
width ft=
width in=
height m=4.6
height ft=15
height in=2
wing area sqm=
wing area sqft=
empty weight kg=3,850
empty weight lb=8,490
gross weight kg=10,400
gross weight lb=22,900
eng1 number=1
eng1 type=Allison Rolls-Royce AE3007H turbofan engine
eng1 kw=
eng1 hp=
eng1 kn=31.4
eng1 lbf=7,050
eng1 kn-ab=
eng1 lbf-ab=
max speed kmh=
max speed mph=
max speed mach=
cruise speed kmh=650
cruise speed mph=404
range km=
range miles=
endurance h=36
endurance min=
ceiling m=20,000
ceiling ft=65,000
climb rate ms=
climb rate ftmin=

ee also

* Scaled Composites Model 396
similar aircraft=
* MQ-9 Reaper
* List of active United States military aircraft
see also=
* Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
* Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle


"This article contains material that originally came from the web article [http://www.vectorsite.net/twuav.html "Unmanned Aerial Vehicles"] by Greg Goebel, which exists in the Public Domain."

External links

* [http://www.fas.org/irp/program/collect/global_hawk.htm "RQ-4A Global Hawk (Tier II+ HAE UAV)"] , Federation of American Scientists
* [http://www.defense-update.com/products/g/globalhawk.htm "Global Hawk RQ-4A-B High Altitude Long Endurance UAV"] , Defense Update
* [http://www.raytheon.com/products/globalhawk_iss/ Raytheon product page on the Global Hawk Integrated Sensor Suite]
* [http://www.fas.org/irp/program/collect/docs/n19991223_992288.htm Results of Global Hawk accident investigation board]
* [http://www.welt.de/data/2007/01/06/1167291.html German newspaper article on the procurement of EuroHawk] .
* [http://www.luftwaffe.de/portal/a/luftwaffe/kcxml/04_Sj9SPykssy0xPLMnMz0vM0Y_QjzKLN4_3MTMDSYGYAYb6kTChoJRUfV-P_NxUfW_9AP2C3IhyR0dFRQAGGJCR/delta/base64xml/L2dJQSEvUUt3QS80SVVFLzZfN19MNjY!?yw_contentURL=%2F01DB060000000001%2FW26PXP7Q301INFODE%2Fcontent.jsp EuroHawk on the Homepage of the Luftwaffe]
* [http://www.bundeswehr.de/portal/a/bwde/kcxml/04_Sj9SPykssy0xPLMnMz0vM0Y_QjzKLd4x3DzUFSYGYhm5--pEwsaCUVH1fj_zcVH1v_QD9gtyIckdHRUUAIAkB_w!!/delta/base64xml/L2dJQSEvUUt3QS80SVVFLzZfQV9HVTU!?yw_contentURL=%2FC1256EF4002AED30%2FW26P8CGE983INFODE%2Fcontent.jsp EuroHawk on the homepage of the Bundeswehr]
* [http://www.air-attack.com/page/54/RQ-4-Global-Hawk.html RQ-4 Global Hawk profile on Air Attack]

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