Starting out as a speck on the horizon, the aircraft flew in smoothly, landing precisely on the runway before pausing and then taxi-ing itself to a point where it was towed to the static display area, following a 13-hour, 3,075-nautical mile journey from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.
This autonomous system has been supporting the US and its allies for nearly two decades around the world. Global Hawk's important mission is to provide a broad spectrum of data collection capability to support joint combatant forces in worldwide peacetime, contingency, disaster relief and military operations.
The RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system (UAS) is capable of flying at altitudes of 60,000 feet for greater than 30 hours. Global Hawk is designed to gather near-real-time, high-resolution imagery of large areas of land in all types of weather – day or night.
Global Hawk has amassed more than 200,000 flight hours with missions flown in support of military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, north Africa and the greater Asia-Pacific region. The system provides an affordable and flexible platform for multiple sensor payloads to be used together, delivering mission-critical information to various users around the world.
The Global Hawk platform serves as the basis for Australia's yet-to-be-purchased fleet of MQ-4C Triton high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) system. Australia's procurement of the Northrop Grumman designed and manufactured, MQ-4C Triton is part of an initial $1.4 billion contract that will see Australia acquire a fleet of up to seven of the autonomously piloted systems.
Designed from the ground up to focus on HALE surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, Northrop Grumman's Triton seemed perfect for meeting the government's 'Stop the Boats' and border security policies. However, increasing tensions in the South China Sea (SCS) have provided a new suite of mission requirements for Australia's future surveillance drone fleet.
Remotely flying out of RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia, the Triton's are capable of monitoring 40,000 square kilometres a day and seamlessly flying a round trip for sustained surveillance and in support of allied Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOP) in the SCS from the Northern Territory – increasing Australia's interoperability with key allies, particularly the US.
Designed to operate in conjunction with Australia's planned fleet of 12 manned P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol and anti-submarine aircraft, the Triton's provide a quantum leap in the nation's surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, while the facilities and crew required to operate, train and maintain will be part of the initial $1.4 billion investment, which includes $364 million on new facilities at RAAF Bases Edinburgh (SA) and Tindal (in NT).
Highlighting the capabilities of the common platform, there are always several Global Hawk systems in the air somewhere in the world 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with flight crews operating the system halfway across the world out of harm’s way.
As part of our coverage of the 2019 Avalon Airshow and Expo, Defence Connect in partnership with Northrop Grumman hosted a series of panel discussions unpacking the role of next-generation platforms, like the Triton and yet-to-be-selected Reaper-variant RPAS system, will deliver to the ADF as part of the transition to a 'joint force'. If you missed the webstream conversations, you are able to view both here.
Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in autonomous systems, cyber, C4ISR, space, strike and logistics and modernisation to customers worldwide.