Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk

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Northrop Grumman RQ-4A Global Hawk
First FlightFebruary 28, 1998
Entered ServiceNovember 11, 2001
Number built54 planned
ManufacturerNorthrop Grumman
Tier II+
Length13.4 m44 ft
Wingspan35.4 m116.2 ft
Height4.2 m14.6 ft
Wing areaft²
Empty4,175 kg9,200 lb
Maximum takeoff weight12,111 kg26,700 lb
Capacity907 kg sensor payload
Enginesone Rolls-Royce F137-AD-100
Thrust31.4 kN (each)7,050 lbf (each)
Maximum speed635 km/h343 kts
Operational range22,236 km12,000 nm
Endurance24 hours @ 1,200 nm
Service ceiling19,800 m65,000 ft
AvionicsNorthrop Grumman HISAR



The RQ-4A Global Hawk, during it's development designated as Tier II+, is a high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial reconnaissance system which provides military field commanders with high resolution, near real-time imagery of large geographic areas. It takes off and lands on conventional runways using a retractable tricycle landing gear. The airframe has the typical layout of a high-endurance UAV, and the prominent nose bulge houses the wideband SATCOM antenna of 1.2 m (4 ft) diameter. The main components of the RQ-4A's ISS (Integrated Sensor Suite) for its surveillance, reconnaissance and target acquisition missions are an Raytheon SAR/MTI and IR / EO sensors.

In April 2001, Global Hawk made aviation history when it completed the first non-stop flight across the Pacific Ocean by an unmanned, powered aircraft, flying from Edwards AFB, California, to the Royal Australian Air Force Base, Edinburgh, South Australia. Global Hawk successfully participated in a series of exercises with the RAAF, the Royal Australian Navy and the US Navy. Guinness World Records has recognised the flight as the longest (13,840km) by a full-scale unmanned aircraft. In August 2003, Global Hawk became the first UAV to receive authorisation from the US Federal Aviation Administration to fly in national airspace. In August 2011, the US Air Force announced that in FY2015, the Global Hawk will replace the U-2.




Block 0

In March 2001, the US Department of Defense awarded Northrop Grumman a contract for the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase of the programme which concluded in February 2003 with the final delivery of the seventh pre-production (block 0) vehicle. Prototypes were designated YRQ-4A, including prototype Air Vehicle-3 (AV-3). Although still being a prototype, AV-3 was depolyed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Because it still showed some of the "crankiness" of a prototype, AV-3 was nicknamed "Grumpy." Nevertheless, it also flew reconnaissance missions in support of Operations Southern Watch (OSW), Iraqi Freedom (OEF), Enduring Freedom (OEF) and the Combined Task Force-Horn of Africa.

Block 10

The first production vehicle (block 10) rolled out in August 2003. The RQ-4A carries the HISAR (Hughes Integrated Surveillance & Reconnaissance) sensor system. HISAR is a lower-cost derivative of the ASARS-2 package that Hughes developed for the Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady. A further LRIP contract for four vehicles was placed in February 2003 and a third in October 2004 for two vehicles. Block 10 deliveries were completed in June 2006. The US Navy had two RQ-4A air vehicles delivered in 2005, which were used for the Navy's Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD) program, which led to the Navy's Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) program. BAMS is aimed to provides persistent maritime Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) data collection and dissemination capability to the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force (MPRF). Northrop Grumman is responding to the BAMS requirement with it's RQ-4N proposal. The designation YRQ-4A was applied to an development airframe. In September 2010, the BAMS aircraft was designated the MQ-4C.


Block 20

The larger RQ-4B Block 20 aircraft will carry up to 3,000 pounds of internal payload and will operate with two-and-a-half times the power of its predecessor. Its open system architecture, a so-called "plug-and-play" environment, will accommodate new sensors and communication systems as they are developed to help military customers quickly evaluate and adopt new technologies. When fully fueled for flight, the Block 20 variant weighs approximately 32,250 pounds. due to the increased size and payload the range is reduced to 8,700 nm. More than half the system's components are constructed of lightweight, high-strength composite materials, including its wings, wing fairings, empennage, engine cover, engine intake, and three radomes. Its main fuselage is standard aluminum, semi-monocoque construction. The first block 20 Global Hawk completed a maiden flight in April 2007.

Block 30

Designation for 26 airframes with Airborne Signals Intelligence Payload (ASIP). This Sigint equipment identifies and locates radio frequency emitters.

Block 40

Designation for 15 block 40 airframes with the multi-platform radar technology insertion programme (MP-RTIP) radar, originally developed for the (now cancelled) E-10 Multi-sensor Command and Control Aircraft (MC2A). NATO acquired a surveillance model based on the RQ-4B Block 40. Carrying the Northrop/Raytheon MP-RTIP sensor for ground-looking synthetic aperture radar imaging and GMTI, the unmanned air vehicle offers similar capabilities to the E-8C J-Stars, but without an onboard battle management function. First flight was 19 December 2015.


The RQ-4E aka Euro Hawk is being offered to the German Luftwaffe as a replacement for the Breguet Br1150 Atlantic signals intelligence (SIGINT) platform. The EADS-built SIGINT mission system will be the heart of the Euro Hawk’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) system, providing stand-off capability to detect radar emitters (ELINT) and communications emitters (COMINT). EADS will also provide the ground stations that will receive and analyze the data from Euro Hawk. Northrop Grumman unveiled the first Eurohawk, based on the Block 20 Global Hawk standard, 9 October 2009.



In November 2011 the designation EQ-4B was allocated to two EQ-4B Global Hawk Block 20 airframes, modified for the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) System. The EQ-4Bs will work together with four E-11 aircraft modified for the BACN mission.


MQ-4C Triton

Formerly designated BAMS, the MQ-4C is a maritime and littoral surveillance platform developed for the US Navy, based on the RQ-4B Block 20. Multi-mission payload featuring a 360-degree multi-function active sensor to provide persistent maritime and littoral ISR and airborne communications relay functions. To be operationally integrated with the P-8 Poseidon Previously marketed as RQ-4N.

Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS)

NATO is buying an Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system that will give commanders a picture of the situation on the ground in an area of interest. It will consist of a mix of manned and unmanned airborne radar platforms that can look down on the ground and relay data to commanders, providing them with ‘eyes in the sky’ over a specific area. The AGS will be produced by the Transatlantic Industrial Partnership for Surveillance (TIPS) consortium with the goal of having an initial operational capability in 2013. It will be owned and operated by NATO. The UAV element will be provided by a version based on the RQ-4B Block 40 Global Hawk.

Polar Hawk

Proposed conversion of ex US Air Force Block 30 airframes, offered to the RCAF, to provide air surveillance capability over the artic.




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