Global Hawk Sets Endurance Mark

An RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 20 unmanned aerial vehicle set an endurance record for a full-scale, operational unmanned aircraft during a flight March 22 at Edwards AFB. The aircraft completed a flight of 33.1 hours at altitudes up to 60,000 feet, eclipsing the previous marks held by a Global Hawk Block 10 aircraft, Northrop Grumman, the RQ-4’s maker, said in a March 25 release. “This was a major milestone for the entire Global Hawk team and is a critical data point in supporting upcoming production decisions,” said Col. Chris Coombs, acting Global Hawk program director for the 303rd Aeronautical Systems Group at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. “It was a picture perfect flight, landing flawlessly on centerline with enough fuel remaining to continue for two more hours,” added Jerry Madigan, Northrop Grumman vice president of high-altitude long-endurance systems. The record setting aircraft, designated AF-8, is the first of six Block 20 aircraft that USAF is procuring. Already seven smaller Block 10 aircraft are in service. Overall the Air Force wants to buy 54 Global Hawks, if not more. Three Block 10s are currently based in Southwest Asia from where they fly in support of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.