Global Hawk, the Department of Defense's newest reconnaissance aircraft, successfully flew for the first time at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on Saturday, Feb. 28.
Global Hawk air vehicle number one, a high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned air vehicle (UAV), took off from the Edwards Air Force Base main runway at 7:43 a.m. (PST) and flew for 56 minutes.
The UAV reached altitudes up to 32,000 feet before landing on the base's
Global Hawk, with a 116-foot wingspan, navigated along a "bow tie" track within restricted air space.
The entire mission, including the take-off and landing, was performed autonomously by the aircraft based on its mission plan.
The Launch and Recovery Element of
the system's ground segment continuously monitored the status of the flight.
The flight was the first of numerous air worthiness evaluation and payload demonstration flights planned.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is developing Global Hawk to provide military field commanders with a high-altitude, long-endurance system
that can obtain high-resolution, near-real-time imagery of large geographic areas.
"Today's flight was an exceptional accomplishment for the Global Hawk team.
This is a key milestone towards giving warfighters a powerful new capability," said DARPA's program manager Col. Doug Carlson, USAF.
"Not only did Global Hawk perform beautifully, but the successful flight demonstrated how government, military and contractor personnel can work together on a challenging development program.
I am especially pleased with the excellent support we have received from the Edwards Air Force Base team, and I look forward to working with them as the program proceeds."
The new aircraft has been designed to operate with a range of 13,500 nautical miles, at altitudes up to 65,000 feet and with an endurance of 40 hours.
During a typical reconnaissance mission, the aircraft can fly 3,000 miles to an area of interest, remain on station for 24 hours, survey an area the size of the state of Illinois (40,000 square nautical miles), and then return 3,000 miles to its operating base.
During a typical mission, a Synthetic Aperture Radar/Moving
Target Indicator and Electro-Optical and Infrared sensors onboard the aircraft can provide near-real-time imagery of the area of interest to the battlefield commander via world-wide satellite communication links and the system's ground segment.
Global Hawk air vehicle number one has been located at Edwards Air Force Base since August 1997.
Air vehicle number two, which is nearing completion, will be flown primarily to validate the performance of the system's sensors and communication systems; its testing will
begin at Edwards Air Force Base later this year.
The Global Hawk program is managed by DARPA for the Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office.
Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical is the prime contractor.
Principal suppliers on the contractor team include Raytheon Systems, which is developing the ground segment and sensors; Allison Engine Co., which builds the aircraft's turbofan engine; Boeing North American, which builds the carbon fiber wing; and L3 Com, which is developing the communication systems.