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Global Hawk Makes Historic First Unmanned Flight To Australia

  • Global Hawk, an unmanned aerial vehicle manufactured by Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical, with a wingspan of 116 feet, will provide battlespace commanders near-real-time intelligence imagery from high altitudes for long periods of time, using SAR, moving target indicator, EO and infrared sensor systems. The data gathered by Global Hawk will be relayed to decision-makers via world-wide satellite communication links to its ground segment.
  • Adelaide - April 24, 2001
    The United States’ Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Global Hawk made international aviation history Monday when it completed the first non-stop flight across the Pacific Ocean by an autonomous aircraft, flying from Edwards Air Force Base on the west coast of the U.S. to RAAF Base Edinburgh, South Australia.

    Global Hawk, renamed Southern Cross II for its deployment to Australia, ended its 22hour first trans-Pacific flight at the Royal Australian Air Force’s Edinburgh Base north of Adelaide at 9pm last night. It will be based at Edinburgh for the next six weeks.

    Dr Brendan Nelson, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence said this was a historic moment in world aviation.

    "Emerging systems such as Global Hawk offer Australia great potential for surveillance, reconnaissance and ultimately the delivery of combat power," Dr Nelson said.

    While in country, the Global Hawk air vehicle number five will fly about 12 missions around Australia and its maritime approaches allowing Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the U.S. to jointly assess the military utility of high altitude endurance UAVs to conduct maritime, littoral and land surveillance, and stand-off reconnaissance operations.

    This collaboration between Australia and the United States benefits both countries. It allows Australian scientists to contribute to leading edge UAV technology while assessing the potential value of Global Hawk for the protection of Australian territory and maritime approaches.

    RAAF’s WGCDR Brett Newell, who leads the Global Hawk Integrated Project Team, says the Air Force was keen to explore the potential use of UAVs as it sought the most cost effective future technologies.

    "UAVs such as Global Hawk might offer significant potential to fundamentally change the force structure of the ADF," WGCDR Newell said.

    The United States Air Force’s COL Wayne Johnson said the mission to Australia would mark a tremendous achievement in the development of Global Hawk.

    "This cooperative effort between Australia and the United States gives our countries a great opportunity for the continued development of the Global Hawk System," COL Johnson said.

    DSTO’s Global Hawk Program Manager, Mr Rod Smith said, "DSTO scientists, systems analysts and engineers have provided expertise and assistance to the US in developing new maritime and littoral surveillance capabilities for Global Hawk." Maritime surveillance will be the main focus of the Global Hawk deployment to Australia.

    The United States benefits from Australia’s significant expertise in this area. These new capabilities will allow Global Hawk to more efficiently and effectively search large areas to detect and classify maritime targets.

    In a conflict, Global Hawk could be used to detect, classify and monitor a wide range of targets in our maritime approaches, close to the shore or on land.

    Alternatively, in peacetime it could also be used in support of national tasks. These might include Coastwatch activities, such as detection of illegal fishing, or support to national disaster management.

    potential regional coverage offered from Australia by Global Hawk.
  • A typical reconnaissance mission for Global Hawk might involve operating at a range of 12,500 nautical miles, at altitudes up to 65,000 feet for 38 to 42 hours. Capable of flying 3,000 miles to an area of reconnaissance interest, Global Hawk could then survey an area the size of Illinois (40,000 square nautical miles) for 24 hours, relaying intelligence data via ground and airborne links -- and return 3,000 miles to its operating base. Following the end of Global Hawk's flight testing program in April, U.S. Atlantic Command and Air Combat Command will conduct a military utility assessment to determine how they might use UAVs in future operations.
  • RAAF and DSTO are working closely with the US Air Force (USAF) and Northrop Grumman Ryan Aeronautical Center, the company which developed Global Hawk for the USAF, under a four-year agreement called Project Arrangement 13.

    Global Hawk’s integrated sensor suite includes a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and an electro-optic suite which provides images in the infrared and visual bands.

    Global Hawk is jet powered, has a wing span approximately equivalent to a Boeing 737, can fly autonomously non-stop for up to 36 hours at altitudes up to 65,000ft (19.81 km), and in a 24 hour period can search an area of 40,000 square miles (103,600 km2), twice the size of Tasmania.

    Another example of technological input to the program by Australia is a ground station, known as the Australian Ground Element (AGE), which was developed by DSTO and industry for Australia’s Defence Joint Project 129.

    The AGE will integrate with Global Hawk to provide the capability to analyse sensor data in real time/near real time for the Australian operations.

    The aircraft deployed to Australia, Global Hawk air vehicle number 5, first flew in August last year and has since flown 120 hours in twelve test missions.

    A complete Global Hawk system has been brought to Australia consisting of the air vehicle, a ground station for controlling the aircraft, monitoring its status and making operational changes if necessary, and the sophisticated communications equipment required to command and control the air vehicle.

    An assessment team from the USAF’s Air Force Test and Evaluation Center (AFOTEC), Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, has also deployed to work with Australian personnel on the joint military utility evaluation.

    While in Australia Global Hawk will fly a range of missions including sorties in support of the Tandem Thrust military exercise in Queensland, missions over Australia’s north-west coast, and missions across the top end from Cape York to Darwin and Tindal RAAF Base at Katherine in the Northern Territory.

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    San Diego - March 22, 2001
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