Tag Archives: Surveillance

The RQ 4 Global Hawk Surveillance Drone

Airmen from Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., welcome the first RQ-4 Global Hawk to the base May 26, 2011. The arrival marked the beginning of a new era of remotely piloted aircraft at the base. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Johnny Saldivar)

The big news last week was Iran shooting down an American Drone over the Strait of Hormuz. Our government claims that it was flying in international airspace and Iran says it was in their airspace. Subsequently our President authorized and then cancelled a retaliatory strike against Iran. I wasn’t paying too much attention the drone itself until I read in the news that it cost $190 million (other sources are saying $220 million), and it had a wingspan bigger than that of the Boeing 747 airliner (that turned out to be an untrue claim.)

Northrop Grumman : RQ-4A : Global Hawk
Photo posted to Flickr Commons by San Diego Air and Space Museum

So using my friend Mr. Google I checked the plane out. It has a wingspan of 130 feet according this US Air Force Fact Sheet and has achieved a flight time of 34 hours. It is cram packed with all sorts of surveillance and electronics gear and has no offensive capability. They can fly at 60,000 feet at a leisurely 310 knots and were considered hard to down with anti-aircraft missiles but not impossible.

born digital image
Photo posted to Flickr Commons by San Diego Air and Space Museum

We have had them operational since 2011 and we have about 30 or so in our fleet. (Or at least we did until last week.)

So anyway, I am glad that our President called off the strike although it kind of puts us in a weak position now. Beyond that though I found out about this amazing aircraft that gives us some amazing capability. I’d love to be able to see one of these airplanes in real life.

Interestingly, according to this Wired article, Iran has attacked American drones before causing one to crash in Yemen and the other escaped. They were the MQ-9 Reaper Drones which according the Air Force are designed for dynamic execution attacks and surveillance. In 2011 Iran downed an RQ 170 Sentinel Surveillance Drone. According the Wired article, Iran reverse engineered the Sentinel and deployed their own version which doesn’t make me too happy.