The first of two RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 20 remotely piloted aircraft being outfitted with special gear to serve as aerial communications relays has made its maiden flight. The inaugural sortie was a functional checkout flight of this battlefield airborne command node, or BACN, configuration. The aircraft took off from Northrop Grumman’s manufacturing facility in Palmdale, Calif., on July 14. After the checkout activities were complete, it landed at Edwards AFB, Calif. The Air Force is having these two Global Hawks modified to meet a request from the combatant commander in Southwest Asia for enhanced battlefield air and ground communications. They are expected to be operational in Fiscal 2011. (Edwards photo caption by Greg L. Davis)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.