USAF gets first production Global Hawks

First Production Global Hawks Fly Missions

Air Force Link:

The first of two production Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles began flying missions in support of the global war on terrorism within hours of arriving in theater earlier this month.

The aircraft — managed by the Aeronautical Systems Center’s Global Hawk Systems Group here — are part of the 12th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron at a forward-base overseas. The two UAVs are named AF-4 and AF-5.

Just 36 hours after arriving on station, AF-5 flew its first combat sortie, which lasted nearly 24 hours. During this initial aerial reconnaissance flight, the Global Hawk’s new production integrated sensor suite performed flawlessly, booting up in half the time of the advanced concept technology demonstration sensor, officials said.

Global Hawk prototypes have been flying nearly non-stop since 9/11.

UPDATE: Forgot to include the link to The Officers’ Club, which is what got me looking into this in the first place. Be sure to check out Global Hawk Arrives in “Southwest Asia”. They’ve got pics.


  1. I don’t know if you know that those prototypes crashed…sorry don’t have a link, I saw it on a pbs show.

  2. BB62, your statement makes it sound like all the prototypes crashed. Is that true? How many prototypes were/are there and how much of them have crashed? I wouldn’t be surprised if one or two had accidents over a couple of years of heavy testing, but I’m not aware of how many prototypes were in use, it would be pretty bad if they all crashed, assuming there’s more than a couple.

  3. 4 of 7 is a lot. Still, they are prototypes which have been used in a real environment and flown pretty much constantly. Plus they’re pretty much conceptual pioneers. So I don’t think it’s an unexpectedly high rate. These sounds like your regular teething errors of new vehicles to me, although four is bad luck. Installed a bolt backwards? Plenty of planes have been lost through mistakes like that. I remember an F-14 which crashed after takeoff, killing the crew, after maintenance personnel re-attached the control rods backwards. Engine failure? Not that uncommon, especially if the engine is a new design. A human pilot could probably do a deadstick landing, but perhaps the loss of generator power dooms the UAV. Landing crash? More training, perhaps, or features to prevent the accidental commands from being inputted like that. I’m not sure I understand the self-destruct problem but it sounds like something which can be fixed now that it’s been identified.