Global Hawk arrives Down Under in style
After a 13h flight from Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, a USAF RQ-4B Block 40 Global Hawk touched down at Avalon near Melbourne. This marks the first time that a Global Hawk has flown into any air show during the daytime.
While Global Hawks have appeared at overseas air shows plenty of times before, including the Avalon Air Show, they always fly in at night because the airspace is less congested in host countries, explained 1st Lt Tim Lukenbaugh, 69 Reconnaissance Group, Air Combat Command of the USAF.
With the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) buying the closely related MQ-4C Tritons, the daytime arrival of the Global Hawk is a good public relations exercise to shows Australians that such unmanned technology is reliable and safe.
Indeed, it is the first air show in the Asia-Pacific region that Shephard has witnessed a daytime arrival of any UAV on a main runway.
Air Cdre Craig Heap, commander of the RAAF’s Surveillance and Response Group, commented, ‘Credit to the USAF. They’ve been operating this aircraft, one of the greatest unmanned air vehicles so far created, if not the best one created at this point in time.’
The RAAF will receive its first Triton in about 2023, and Heap said: ‘We look forward to all those great things being generated from this Global Hawk aircraft, that we’ll take on board with the Tritons that we’re acquiring…We’re really looking forward to getting this capability in the future, as it’s really part of our air force fifth-generation team, the unmanned component of that.’
Heap said that such a large UAV is ideal for Australia with a ‘massive maritime search and rescue area, tremendous ranges that we have to reach to actually achieve anything, to protect ourselves, to secure our borders and, more importantly, to actually be able to conduct search and rescue missions and to help people’.
Heap noted that a couple of RAAF personnel had actually embedded with the USAF and trained on the Global Hawk in the 2000s.
This particular RQ-4B, which had flown earlier to Guam from Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota on a 20h flight, had to contend with a typhoon near Guam as well as difficult crosswinds on take-off.
This aircraft will begin its return home on 6 March after the conclusion of the air show. Such a flight is less than half of what the Triton is capable of.
The USAF has at least three Global Hawks in the air simultaneously at different points around the world 24h a day.
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