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The RQ-4 arrives in Guam: Responsive imagery tool to serve U.S., Pacific partners

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Mike Andriacco
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
Andersen Air Force Base celebrated the arrival of the RQ-4 Global Hawk intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance remotely piloted aircraft to Guam during a ceremony at the base Sept. 20.

The ceremony, hosted by Gen. Gary North, U.S. Pacific Air Forces commander, featured an RQ-4, an F-22 Raptor, F-15 Eagle, and F-18 Hornet as a backdrop - a nod to the role of airpower in the Pacific region.

The Global Hawk brings significant capabilities to the Pacific theater which will benefit the 36th Wing, Pacific Air Forces, U.S. Pacific Command, and regional partners, according to General North.

"Having an ISR capability within the Pacific greatly enhances Air Force operational intelligence capabilities to meet mission requirements," General North said. "In addition, the Global Hawk will enhance the U.S. and its partners' ability to effectively address regional challenges such as humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, terrorism and piracy."

The RQ-4 Global Hawk is capable of providing government and military decision makers near real-time, high-altitude, long-range intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance imagery that can support a full spectrum of operations. Flying above ordinary commercial traffic, the aircraft can survey large geographic areas with pinpoint accuracy, without impacting civilian aircraft routes. The imagery provides the most current information available during contingency or crisis situations.

"This is a technology that saves lives," said Lt. Col. Brandon Baker, Air Combat Command Detachment 3 commander. "The RQ-4 has been used in contingency operations and humanitarian missions before. During wildfires in California, the Global Hawk provided firefighters with a near real-time view of the crisis, and helped firefighters and rescue personnel direct their efforts."

In January, the RQ-4 also provided imagery to coordinators of the international disaster relief and humanitarian mission in Haiti after the devastating earthquake in that nation.

The Pacific Air Forces commander noted the significance of basing the system in Guam.

"Basing the RQ-4 at Andersen AFB will support ongoing regional partnerships and reaffirm to U.S. friends, allies, and partner nations of our commitment to continue modernization efforts and force structure beddown to support maintaining peace and stability in the region," General North said.

So far, one of three planned RQ-4s has arrived on Andersen. The remaining two are scheduled to arrive later this year and at the beginning of 2011. Local crews will launch and land the aircraft from Andersen, while crews at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., will control the bulk of the mission once out of the local area.

"We'll be flying missions in support of U.S. Pacific Command priorities," Colonel Baker said. "We also intend to share with our allies information pertaining to common regional challenges like humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and piracy."

The RQ-4 Global Hawk has flown more than 45,000 hours worldwide since becoming operational in 1995. The remotely piloted aircraft is flown using a variety of communications protocols, complete with built-in safety measures in the event that communication between the mission control and the aircraft is lost.

In the event that all communication with the aircraft is lost or it encounters an in-flight emergency, the RQ-4 is programmed to continue its flight to its original destination or return to its point of origin and land. During this time the pilot may be able to reestablish a link to the aircraft. If that is impossible, the RQ-4 is capable of landing on its own.

"The aircraft is flown by fully qualified certified U.S. Air Force pilots - a fact which contributes to the RQ-4's unparalleled safety record," Colonel Baker said. "The RQ-4 negotiates pre-programmed flight plans and the pilots communicate with air traffic controllers in a similar manner as pilots in manned aircraft."

Additionally, the RQ-4 has a Federal Aviation Administration air worthiness certification which ensures the aircraft meets U.S. standards for safe flight operations. The Air Force routinely flies the RQ-4 Global Hawk in the United States and at destinations around the globe.

"The addition of RQ-4 capabilities to Andersen Air Force Base ensures the 36th Wing, 13AF and the Pacific Air Forces are fully prepared to provide U.S. Pacific Command airpower solutions across the spectrum of ISR requirements," said General North. "And to employ that power with the complete and accurate information necessary to successfully support current and future regional and if required, support of global operations."

For more photos and videos of the RQ-4 Global Hawk, please see the available online press kit at http://www.andersen.af.mil/library/events/globalhawkarrival/index.asp