RQ-4 Global Hawk: Its purpose at Goodfellow

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – A decommissioned RQ-4 Global Hawk sits on display at the corner of Kearney Boulevard and West Canberra Street Sept. 2. During its time in the Air Force, this Global Hawk logged 4,830 hours in 285 missions, including a deployment to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, Southwest Asia, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Devin Boyer)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – A decommissioned RQ-4 Global Hawk sits on display at the corner of Kearney Boulevard and West Canberra Street Sept. 2. During its time in the Air Force, this Global Hawk logged 4,830 hours in 285 missions, including a deployment to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, Southwest Asia, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Devin Boyer)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Unmanned aircraft systems have been a pivotal innovation for collecting data in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions in the Air Force. Among them is the RQ-4 Global Hawk.

According to the Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk fact sheet, this high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft reaches up to 60,000 feet and can stay airborne for over 28 hours at speeds approaching 310 knots.

Students here do not train to fly the aircraft, but ISR trainees learn how to interpret the Global Hawk-received data.

"Our Air Force intel students, regardless of their Air Force specialty code, will at least learn about the basic abilities of the Global Hawk along with some of the other intelligence collection platforms," said Tech. Sgt. Adam M. Nelson, 315th Training Squadron instructor. "This is taught in the Intelligence Fundamentals Course, which is the first course the Airmen take when they start training at Goodfellow Air Force Base."

The ISR students are likely to find themselves working with the Global Hawk in their career.

"The Global Hawk can collect multiple types of data, and is being used in operations around the world," added Nelson. "Anyone who works with an Air Force Distribution Common Ground System will probably receive intel from the Global Hawk."

The AFDCGS is a system used to collect, process, exploit, analyze and disseminate intelligence received through various platforms like the RQ-4 Global Hawk.

Goodfellow is home to one of the few static RQ-4 Global Hawk displays in the Air Force. It was assembled and placed at Kearney Boulevard and West Canberra Street in 2011. Prior to its retirement, the Northrop Grumman-produced aircraft was assigned to Edwards Air Force Base, California. After two years of testing, the Air Force transferred the Global Hawk to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, California, where it logged 4,830 hours in 285 missions, including a deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Now, ISR students at Goodfellow have the chance to see the aircraft they will encounter throughout their career.

"When I take the students out to the Global Hawk display, it is normally to give them a better appreciation of the size difference between it and the MQ-1 Predator," said Nelson. "We will also talk about how it is controlled, and where the primary sensors are located."

Even when it is decommissioned, the RQ-4 Global Hawk serves a purpose as an asset to students in the military.