The US Air Force's first Block 40 configuration of the RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) has successfully completed its first flight.
Designated as AF-18, the Northrop developed, advanced capability aircraft, flew for two hours from Northrop's manufacturing facility in Palmdale, California, to Edwards Air Force Base, California, during the first flight on 16 November.
Global Hawk programme director for the 303d Aeronautical Systems Group at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, Steve Amburgey said AF-18 is the first of 15 Block 40 Global Hawk aircraft scheduled for fielding to Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota, in 2010.
"The aircraft will carry an advanced, all-weather multiplatform radar technology insertion programme (MP-RTIP) sensor, providing game-changing situational awareness for our warfighters with its unprecedented capability to detect, track and identify stationary and moving targets," he said.
The Global Hawk's range, endurance and large payload capabilities, along with the MP-RTIP, will be effective in providing persistent surveillance of the enemy.
The block 40 Global Hawk, equipped with the MP-RTIP is capable of flying at altitudes up to 60,000ft for more than 32 hours per sortie at speeds approaching 340kt, and can perform effectively in all weather conditions.
The Global Hawk, as the world's first fully autonomous HALE UAS, meets the the global need for persistent ISR, and is the platform of choice for foreign and domestic sensors.