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Locally Developed UAV Returns Home

A Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle, developed in part by Northrop Grumman Corp.’s Integrated Systems sector in San Diego, recently returned to Edwards Air Force Base after completing 167 missions and more than 4,800 flight hours in Southwest Asia.

The Global Hawk UAV-3, built by U.S. and international companies, was designed as a demonstrator to test and evaluate technologies. Although it was never intended for combat, Global Hawks were deployed shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks because of their ability to pinpoint critical targets while surveying vast regions from an altitude of 60,000 feet.

Mission parameters are programmed into Global Hawk, which can then take off, fly, return and land autonomously.

The UAV-3 returned to its test facility at Edwards Air Force Base because two production RQ-4A Global Hawk vehicles were deployed in January to fly continuous missions over Iraq and Afghanistan. The RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude reconnaissance system is designed and produced by Northrop Grumman.

“The program has learned a great deal from this one deployed test asset, which will bring even greater Global Hawk capabilities to the war fighter of the future,” said Lt. Col. Mark Corley, a ground-based Global Hawk pilot for the Air Force’s 9th Reconnaissance Wing.

Over its operational deployment, the UAV-3 provided hundreds of thousands of images to the military.

The craft was originally planned for 40 test flights a year within several years. It has flown four times that many flights in 18 months and had a 95 percent mission effectiveness rate, according to Northrop Grumman.

Deployed Global Hawks have flown more than 5,400 combat hours in more than 260 missions. The entire fleet of Global Hawk vehicles has logged more than 8,700 flight hours.

, Julie Gallant

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