Northrop Grumman RQ-4

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RQ-4 Global Hawk
MQ-4 Triton
Global Hawk 1.jpg
RQ-4B Global Hawk (Block 20) ​​in flight
Type: Unmanned aerial vehicle
(long-range reconnaissance drone)
Design country:

United StatesUnited States United States


Northrop Grumman Corporation

First flight:

February 28, 1998


June 26, 2006

Production time:

in series production since 2005

Number of pieces:

46 (as of January 2013)

Maiden flight of an MQ-4C Triton

The RQ-4 Global Hawk and the MQ-4 Triton are two variants of unmanned aerial vehicle ( coll. Drone ) that from the US company Northrop Grumman owned Ryan Aeronautical Center , San Diego , California is produced. As a high-flying long-range reconnaissance aircraft , the RQ-4B version initially developed by the United States Air Force (USAF) replaced the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft . Germany procured a modified RQ-4 drone called the Euro Hawk for the Bundeswehr. In addition, plans were announced in 2018 to purchase modified MQ-4 Triton drones under the name Pegasus (Persistent German Airborne Surveillance System).

The NATO has become the battlefield reconnaissance and surveillance, here Alliance Ground Surveillance called (AGS), also opted for these systems.


The RQ-4 is a high-flying (almost 20 km altitude), persistent (up to 40 hours) reconnaissance aircraft , the autonomous and satellite-based can fly missions worldwide (UAV: Unmanned (Uninhabited) Aerial Vehicle / Unmanned Aerial Vehicle ). However, the aircraft is not controlled remotely by a joystick in the classic sense , but flies according to the pattern of flight guidance in modern commercial aviation , take-off, flight path and landing programmed via computer and thus automatically. The pilot on the ground is connected to the systems on board at all times via radio data transmission, directly and via satellite, and can make changes or reversals like a pilot on board. The aircraft takes part in general air traffic (also during take-off and landing), has the corresponding systems on board ( transponder , TCAS ) and is designed in accordance with the building regulations for commercial aircraft (strength, flight safety, redundancies, reliability, etc.). The pilot on the ground is connected to the aircraft radio via a relay on board and can e.g. B. contact the air traffic controller at any time or receive instructions from them. A video camera on the bow provides a live view of the flight path ( See and Avoid ) to the pilot on the ground. Emergency procedures and alternative landings are programmed into the flight control computers and can be carried out manually or automatically at any time. Part of the safety concept is that if the connection to the pilot is lost, the aircraft continues on its intended course and also carries out the landing. In the event of failures in the flight control system, the aircraft goes into predefined holding patterns and, if necessary, planned crash zones until new flight control commands are received. Since the flight control is designed with fourfold redundancy, the probability of such a failure is very low.

The pilots for take-off and landing are usually located in a ground station at the take-off and landing site. The pilot can during the mission in (worldwide) dislocated sit ground stations.

Equipped with high-resolution CCD cameras for day and night vision, which are also sensitive to infrared, and with all-weather side - view radar , it can detect any sufficiently large object from an altitude of up to 20,000 meters. In combination with its long flight duration, it can completely clear an area the size of Greece within 24 hours . Northrop Grumman has been conducting tests for autonomous air refueling of the RQ-4 since mid-2011 in order to improve the operational possibilities.

In order to be able to determine the current position at any time, the Global Hawk is equipped with the usual navigation systems and differential GPS .

The aircraft is powered by a turbofan engine with an intake opening above the fuselage, the Rolls-Royce AE 3007 H, as is also used in the passenger aircraft of the Embraer ERJ-145 family .

The system includes various ground stations, the LRE (Launch and Recovery Element) and the MCE (Mission Control Element). Both stations are housed individually in NATO standard containers with their own power supply and air conditioning:

  • The LRE contains the systems for take-off and landing, the control of the aircraft in flight and the pilot's workplace, so it is basically the cockpit . It must be in the area of ​​the take-off and / or landing site, it only has a radio and directional radio connection to the aircraft over a range of approx. 250 km.
  • The MCE contains the systems for controlling the mission system on board the aircraft, for receiving and evaluating the data at several workstations and for forwarding it to the user. In addition, the MCE still has space and equipment for the pilot to take over the aircraft from the LRE after the take-off phase and to control it during the flight or to reverse it as required. The MCE includes a parabolic antenna with a diameter of around 6 meters for satellite-based communication and data transmission. This means that the MCE can theoretically and safely be located at any point on earth.


RQ-4A Global Hawk

The RQ-4A is the initial version of the Global Hawk, which is also known as Block 0 and Block 10 . The first of seven prototypes (Block 0) completed its maiden flight on February 28, 1998. Northrop Grumman developed the machines on the basis of the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) program, which was initiated by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The aim of the ACTD program was to develop a replacement for the outdated U-2 spy aircraft that would have a significantly longer maximum service life. Furthermore, the new model should provide real-time reconnaissance capabilities. In the selection process of the ACTD program in 1999, the Global Hawk prevailed against the competing RQ-3 Dark Star from Lockheed Martin . The third prototype (serial number 98-2003) demonstrated the long service life early on when it completed a 30-hour and 24-minute flight on March 21, 2001, setting a new world record for UAVs. A new world record for the highest altitude for UAVs was also set at 19,928 m; This record was on 23 August of that year from the Helios solar airplane of NASA set.

The US Air Force (USAF) used the Global Hawk for the first time in the Afghanistan war , although it had not yet officially been commissioned at the time. Problems arose with the data connection, which reduced usability and repeatedly led to near crashes. On December 30, 2001, a machine was lost over Afghanistan ; a second crashed over Pakistan on July 10, 2002 as a result of engine problems .

Despite the losses and technical difficulties, the RQ-4 demonstrated the benefits of real-time reconnaissance. Since the significantly more cost-effective RQ-1 Predator could or can also provide real-time reconnaissance and there were fewer technical problems, the ACTD program was temporarily aborted. Since the Global Hawk has a higher efficiency, especially in the areas of service life and flight performance, nine more Block 10 machines were finally ordered, the first of which had its maiden flight on September 9, 2003. However, these were manufactured at a lower production speed in order to simplify technical adjustments and to save costs. Two of the new machines were handed over to the US Navy , and two more were used by the US Air Force in the Iraq war . It turned out that the technical adjustments had improved the reliability of the Global Hawk. However, it also became clear that the potential of the model cannot be fully used with the Block 10 version, as the payload of 910 kg was too low. To meet the need for more and more powerful reconnaissance systems, a larger sample would be needed, which led to the development of the RQ-4B Block 20.

A total of 16 Global Hawks of the Block 10 version have been manufactured for the US Air Force, which were only officially put into service on July 26, 2006. At the same time, their final specifications were also determined. Originally, the purchase of 59 samples of the RQ-4A variant was planned, but production was switched to the more powerful RQ-4B variant at an early stage. Only seven RQ-4A machines were put into service.

In December 2007, NASA received two RQ-4A Global Hawks from the US Air Force for research purposes. Both samples, the first and sixth machines in the ACTD program, are stationed at the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base . A third machine was added later, which is also used for long-term scientific missions at great heights, such as the z. B. GloPac (Global Hawk Pacific) and WISPAR (Winter Storms and Pacific Atmospheric Rivers) from NASA and NOAA can be used. The seven USAF specimens were only operated until May 2011 and taken out of flight operations after 2,141 missions and almost 36,000 flight hours. The US Navy received at least five machines (as of April 2012) in preparation for its Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Demonstration (BAMS-D) program (see MQ-4C), one of which crashed over Maryland in June 2012 . The first museums are also to receive block 10 copies.


The KQ-X was a tanker drone project. Two RQ-4A were converted as a test sample, with which autonomous air refueling is tested as part of the KQ-X program . The model to be refueled was equipped with a refueling probe at the tip of the fuselage, while the other drone, used as a tanker, was equipped with a hose-funnel refueling system in the middle of the fuselage. The highlight of the project were formation flights without coupling the refueling facilities and were carried out in August 2012.

RQ-4B Global Hawk

Block 20

The RQ-4B is an enlarged version of the A variant. The span was increased to increase the load capacity to 1360 kg and thus to be able to carry more powerful reconnaissance systems. This is why the fuselage length has also been increased in order to have more space for sensors and avionics. The larger dimensions are partly at the expense of the maximum range. The first RQ-4B of the Block 20 version was presented on August 25, 2006 and had its maiden flight on March 1, 2007. Since 2008, production of the RQ-4 has been switched to the Block 20 variant.

Two of the machines were equipped with the BACN (Battlefield Airborne Communication Node) radio relay system. The first, now known as the EQ-4B, flew for the first time on July 14, 2010. The machines are controlled from Grand Forks. However, one of the two crashed over Afghanistan on August 21, 2011. The cause of the loss was a defective plug connection that damaged an LRU (Line Replacement Unit) required for flight control and ultimately led to the aircraft being unable to be steered.

By the end of 2011, the US Air Force had officially put a total of six "RQ-4B Block 20" machines into service, which are mainly used for training. The conversion of two more RQ-4Bs to EQ-4Bs has been ordered, and the other two could follow.

Block 30

The Block 30 version uses the airframe of the Block 20 variant, which is why the machines cannot be distinguished from the outside. Northrop Grumman began work on the Block 30 version in June 2006, even before the first Block 20 prototype was unveiled. The first flight took place on November 16, 2007. The primary innovation compared to the Block 20 version is the installation of the upgrades Enhanced Imagery Sensor Suite (EISS) and Airborne Signals Intelligence Payload (ASIP) AN / ASQ-230 from Northrop Grumman, which is the Global Hawk enables SIGINT tasks to be carried out, just like the Euro Hawk does. Originally the first machine of the Block 30 version was expected in 2010, due to technical problems, especially with the ASIP, only four pre-series prototypes were produced by summer 2011. In the Operational Test and Evaluation Report (OT&E) of May 27, 2011, the Block 30 prototypes were described as inefficient, as they had only been able to fulfill 27% of their planned range of tasks by then. For this reason, it was even considered for a short time to forego the Block 30 version entirely and instead switch production directly to the Block 40 version. Ultimately, the decision was made in June 2011 to purchase only 31 copies instead of the 44 previously planned. Twelve had been delivered by mid-2011. Of the 31 purchased specimens, 18 are to be mothballed straight away or given to foreign partners. In September 2012, 14 copies were delivered and 4 were under construction. In the end, the number was increased a bit, to 37 RQ-4B block 30.

Block 40

Image from radar elevation data of a volcanic crater, obtained from a Global Hawk drone in the Block 40 version (July 2010)

The first official presentation of the Block 40 variant took place on June 25, 2009 at Northrop Grumman. It has the new AESA - side-looking radar MP-RTIP (Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program) AN / ZPY-2, can be created with the high-resolution radar maps. It can be recognized by the long panel under the fuselage for the 1.20 × 0.45 m antenna.

The first prototype of the RQ-4B Block 40 version made its maiden flight on November 16, 2009. The US Air Force originally ordered 22 Block 40 machines, but the number was temporarily reduced to 11 in February 2011 in order to use the funds released To be able to fix problems with the Block 30 version. An aircraft was delivered by mid-2011 and will be stationed in Grand Forks. The first test flight with the radar, which had already been tested in a Perseus test aircraft, took place on July 21, 2011. The Block 40 series was not affected by the Block 30 program stop issued in early 2012.

On May 20, 2012, NATO ordered five machines for its AGS program.


The USAF converted four RQ-4B into the so-called Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN). The installed system serves to improve the communication of the ground troops in mountainous areas with poor (voice) radio connections.

MQ-4C Triton

The two MQ-4C prototypes at the Northrop Grumman Test Site in Palmdale, California (April 2013)

The MQ-4C Triton is a version based on the RQ-4B Block 30 for maritime surveillance for the US Navy as part of the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) program. Triton is a sea god from Greek mythology.

This variant was originally named RQ-4N and renamed MQ-4C in September 2010. The payload is raised to 1450 kg (1090 kg external) and the machine is equipped with multi-sensor equipment (EO / IR camera, SIGINT AN / ZLQ-1, AIS and MFAS X-band radar).

The origins of the MQ-4C can be traced back to test flights carried out by the US Navy with two Block 10 Global Hawks from the US Air Force. The machines were designated N-1 during the test flights. After the fundamental suitability of the RQ-4 for maritime surveillance could be proven, Northrop Grumman began with the "Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration" program (GHMD). This was used to adapt the Global Hawk to the "BAMS" program, which is a restructuring of the maritime reconnaissance of the USA, and was carried out from March 28, 2006 on the Naval Air Station Patuxent River .

On April 28, 2008, Northrop Grumman was awarded the contract in the Maritime Surveillance program and was commissioned with the delivery of 68 machines for the US Navy. The contract for the MQ-4C, which was only signed in August 2008, has a total volume of US $ 1.16 billion. The RQ-4N prevailed in the three-year selection process against the competing models MQ-1C Sky Warrior and MQ-9N Mariner and together with the P-8 Poseidon represents the basic element of the maritime surveillance program. The decisive factor for the MQ-4C was their significantly longer service life compared to the competition models. The 80-minute first flight took place on May 22, 2013, during which it reached an altitude of 6100 m.

The first test flights with the radar planned for the Triton and called MFAS were planned for April 2015. After three flight test copies, the first two field copies are expected in Patuxent River from September 2017. The MQ-4 was officially put into service in June 2018, with the first operational deployment on Guam since the beginning of 2020 . The first MQ-4C squadron is the VUP-19 unmanned patrol squadron.

RQ-4D Phoenix

The five copies based on the RQ-4B Block 40 for the Alliance Ground Surveillance of NATO were given the designation RQ-4D.

The RQ-4D are equipped with an MP-RTIP ( Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program ) radar developed by Northrop Grumman and Raytheon and tested in the United States. It is a so-called Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar. NATO signed the procurement contract with the manufacturer Northrop Grumman on May 20, 2012; the first flight took place on December 19, 2015.

RQ-4E Euro Hawk

Euro Hawk ( registration number 99 + 01) after the transfer flight from Edwards Air Force Base, USA to WTD61 in Manching, D. The SIGINT equipment was not yet installed at the time. (July 21, 2011)
The Bundeswehr Euro-Hawk drone 99 + 01 in the EADS / Cassidian hangar . (October 2011)

The RQ-4E Euro Hawk is a SIGINT version of the RQ-4B (Block 20) ​​for the German Armed Forces , whose sensors come from EADS . It was planned that the drone with its reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities would replace the Breguet Atlantic BR-1150M aircraft in Germany. The planning work began in January 2000 at Friedrichshafener Dornier GmbH , at that time still independent within EADS, when projects with manned reconnaissance aircraft turned out to be too expensive and also technically outdated.

At the end of 2002, the first flight tests took place at Edwards Air Force Base (California) in the USA, during which ELINT reconnaissance sensors from EADS in Ulm were tested on board an RQ-4A Global Hawk - including data transmission from the drone to a ground station Direct connection. This test is considered the first flight in the Euro Hawk program.

From October 21, 2003 the US Air Force, the German Armed Forces and the manufacturers Northrop Grumman and Dornier / EADS carried out test flights with the prototype 01 of the RQ-4A and the EADS sensor. The drone had previously flown in a 20-hour flight non-stop from Edwards Air Force Base to Nordholz and landed. The complete infrastructure of ground stations, LRE, MCE and an evaluation station from EADS was set up there at Marinefliegergeschwader 3 "Graf Zeppelin" in order to carry out various sensor tests with simultaneous transmission and evaluation of the collected data to the ground stations over the North Sea at an altitude of almost 19,000 m. The data was transferred via a direct connection; the aircraft was connected to the ground station for the control signals via the Inmarsat satellite system.

In October / November 2004 the components intended for COMINT were tested in a Transall C-160 of the WTD 61 in Manching .

On January 31, 2007, the Federal Office for Defense Technology and Procurement (BWB) and the Friedrichshafen- based EuroHawk GmbH as the contracting agency and a joint venture between Northrop Grumman and Cassidian (to EADS) agreed to develop, test and support the UAS Demonstrators (Full Scale Demonstrator) until 2010 with the option for four further systems from 2011 to 2014 with EADS-SIGINT equipment. The order had a volume of 430 million euros, other sources speak of 1.3 billion euros. The flight operations should be carried out by the reconnaissance wing 51 "Immelmann" from Schleswig Air Base.

The RQ-4E was to be built in Palmdale / Lancaster, California in the Skunk Works and flown to Germany for equipment without the SIGINT system, while the equipment and evaluation station was to be developed at EADS in Friedrichshafen. The final equipment, testing and handover to the Bundeswehr was planned at the EADS location in Manching.

The structural assembly of the first example was completed by Northrop Grumman in July 2009, after which the rollout took place on October 8, 2009. The first flight took place on June 29, 2010 from Palmdale to Edwards Air Force Base.

On July 21, 2011, the first machine to equip the reconnaissance electronics arrived in Manching. The public only found out about the difficulties with the transfer flight in May 2013. The US authorities had denied overflight rights over the USA. The drone had to fly westward from Edwards Air Force Base and fly northward over the Pacific along the coast into Canadian territory. Over uninhabited areas Canada was flown eastwards over Baffin Bay , Greenland and the Atlantic . After flying over the North Sea, we went to Manching in Germany. During the transfer, the connection between the ground station and the drone was briefly broken twice.

On October 12, 2011, the drone (full scale demonstrator) was presented to the German public. On January 11, 2013, the drone completed its first test flight over Germany without any problems.

In May 2013, Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière ended the Euro-Hawk program because the EU's air safety authority only certifies the drone for flight over uninhabited areas and the drone lacks an automatic anti-collision system certified for civil aviation . Only a military license would be legally possible. With an individual permit, the drone was allowed to operate several times in German airspace in order to participate in a NATO maneuver in 2014. According to the manufacturer Northrop Grumman, systems for collision avoidance are part of the drones ordered by Germany. According to estimates by the Air Force, subsequent certification will cost a further 500 to 600 million euros. From the political side it was recommended that the ISIS reconnaissance sensors be used in another type of aircraft. However, this turned out to be unrealistic, as completely different equipment would be required for a manned model, which would be equivalent to a new development and no other drone available on the market has a sufficiently high load capacity and endurance.

In a 2013 audit report, the Federal Audit Office revealed a “serious organizational failure” by the Bundeswehr in the drone project. The approval problem was known before the contract was concluded. Nevertheless, the armaments department continued to work on the project from 2007 to 2012. The audit report of the audit office documents the status reports of the armaments department. As early as 2007, a status report noted that the Euro-Hawk was "critical" because of its approval for civil aviation. Northrop Grumman hardly provided any type-certification documents . Despite the question of approval, the project status was repeatedly given the green traffic light symbol. Instead of reporting the problems to the responsible minister, Karl-Theodor Guttenberg, the budget for the project was increased further. At the end of 2010, the approval of the drone was 18 months behind schedule. According to reports from the armaments department, further cost risks emerged - the project status changed to "very critical". Minister Guttenberg, at least according to his own statement, did not yet know about the precarious situation. When Thomas de Maizière became Minister of Defense in March 2011, he once again claimed to have heard nothing of the problems with the Euro Hawk project. It was not until February 8, 2012 that the de Maizières department informed State Secretaries Stéphane Beemelmans and Rüdiger Wolf , as well as the Inspector General of the Bundeswehr , the Air Force Inspector and other executives in the ministry that the additional costs for the approval for air traffic were now estimated at 600 million euros . Now it was checked whether the sensor technology for communication monitoring on the ground should be built into another aircraft. Since this did not reduce costs, the minister was informed in May 2013. He finished the project.

The opposition parties in the German Bundestag announced a committee of inquiry into the Euro Hawk affair . This was constituted on June 26, 2013 and ended its work with the submission of a final report on August 26, 2013. The majority of the members of the committee of inquiry, on the part of the government, released Thomas de Maizière of all responsibility. Procurement is to be optimized while integrating possible early warning mechanisms and controlling is to be improved. In the joint special vote of the SPD and Greens, however, serious errors at all levels of procurement and a lack of information for citizens and the Bundestag were found. A new start in terms of personnel and structure is required in the procurement of armaments. In its special vote, the Left emphasized the dovetailing between politics and the arms industry. The arms industry would be relieved of responsibility by limiting liability, so that the federal government would bear the risk. Important documents from EuroHawk GmbH and Northrop Grumman would be classified as "VS-CONFIDENTIAL". They could not be quoted in public meetings of the committee of inquiry or in the committee report.

In October 2014, plans to reactivate the Euro-Hawk program became known as a KPMG audit report recommended this. A politically considered manned version turned out to be impractical. The ISIS reconnaissance system could not be built into any other drone due to its weight.

The basis should no longer be the RQ-4B, but the MQ-4C Triton. An anti-collision system, which was missing in the Euro Hawk, was to be developed for this, which should have allowed approval for European airspace. Since the US military expanded radios, navigation devices, flight control computers and encryption systems and uninstalled the software, the German Ministry of Defense considered in May 2018 only the sale of spare parts, "museum use" or scrapping as possible.

On January 28, 2020, the Ministry of Defense informed the Bundestag that this project will also be terminated. The sensor technology developed for the 'Euro Hawk' is now to be installed in three conventional Global 6000 aircraft instead of an unmanned aircraft .


At the beginning of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, the USA sent a Global Hawk drone to Japan , which took photos and thermal images of the exploded reactor buildings 1–4 or of their now visible interior and carried out radioactivity measurements. The US Air Force announced that the drone had already been used after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and was stationed at the US Air Force Base in Guam in the Pacific.



AustraliaAustralia Australia was planning to purchase seven MQ-4C as early as the 2000s, although these should initially be leased. The purchase contract for the first of the six planned MQ-4Cs was not signed until 2018. The drones are intended to complement the P-8A Poseidon and should be available from 2023 and ready for use in 2025.


GermanyGermany Germany initially planned to purchase five RQ-4E Euro Hawks for the Bundeswehr , but in the end only one prototype was purchased ( see above ). In place of the RQ-4E, it was planned to purchase three copies of the more modern MQ-4C (Triton) series in the second half of the 2010s and to equip them with the sensors of the RQ-4E. These modified MQ-4C Triton drones would have been stationed at Schleswig Air Base from 2025 under the name “Pegasus” (for Persistent German Airborne Surveillance System) .
On January 28, 2020, the Ministry of Defense informed the Bundestag that this drone project had also been terminated.


IndiaIndia India : The Indian Navy has expressed an interest in six to eight MQ-4C BAMS (Broad Area Maritime Surveillance) in order to (similar to Australia originally) use them as a supplement to the P-8I Poseidon .


JapanJapan Japan ordered three RQ-4B Block 30i copies in November 2018, which will be delivered by 2022.


CanadaCanada Canada is considering purchasing the MQ-4C to replace the CP-140 Aurora . At the end of May 2012, the manufacturer Northrop Grumman announced a joint venture with the company L3 MAS to develop a "Polar Hawk" for monitoring the Canadian Arctic region. Based on the RQ-4B Block 30, this variant could be equipped with unchanged sensors, but improved satellite communication and additional wing and engine de-icing systems.


SpainSpain Spain is considering the purchase of the MQ-4C for maritime surveillance. So far, no contract has been concluded. In view of the euro crisis and the high Spanish national debt, such a purchase is unlikely.

South Korea

Korea SouthSouth Korea In June 2011, South Korea requested the procurement of four RQ-4B Block 30s in the USA; In view of the high price, Korea ended its procurement intention in early 2012 after the price had risen from an initial 340 million euros to 695 million euros (November 2011). On December 21, 2012, the DSCA again informed the US Congress about a planned export of four RQ-4 Block 30 (I) Global Hawks to Korea at a system price of 930 million euros including service and logistics. The contract was signed at the end of 2014 and delivery began in 2019.


As part of its Alliance Ground Surveillance program, NATO decided to procure five RQ-4B Block 40s. Fifteen countries are participating in the financing (Bulgaria, Germany, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia , Czech Republic, the USA and now also Poland and Denmark). After Canada and Denmark have so far dropped out of procurement, the German contribution is to increase. France and the United Kingdom are planning to procure their own reconnaissance equipment in line with the AWACS program. NATO 


The following information partly still corresponds to the planning status summer 2010 for the future stationing places.

United StatesUnited States United States The US aircraft of the US Air Force and US Navy are jointly serviced, stationed and deployed in order to reduce costs.

The US Navy plans (as of 2016) to station their MQ-4C for the east coast area either at Naval Station Mayport , Naval Air Station Key West or NASA Flight Facility Wallops Island .

In addition to the two advanced permanent bases on Guam and Sicily, there is a third detachment for the United States Central Command at a location not specified. The NASA operates two copies by the Dryden Flight Research Center , which is also located on the premises of Edwards AFB.

AustraliaAustralia Australia


Technical specifications

RQ-4A prototype on its first flight on February 28, 1998
Global Hawk during maintenance (Beale, October 2006)
RQ-4A taking off from Beale AFB (October 2007)
Parameter RQ-4A data RQ-4B data
Type Unmanned high - flying long - range reconnaissance aircraft
length 13.53 m 14.50 m
span 35.42 m 39.89 m
Wing area 50.10 m² k. A.
Wing extension 25.04 k. A.
Wing loading 83 to 232 kg / m² k. A.
height 4.63 m
Empty mass 5,148 kg 6,781 kg
Max. Takeoff mass 12,133 kg 14,628 kg
Fuel capacity 6,985 l 7,847 l
Top speed 644 km / h (at optimal altitude) 637 km / h (at optimal altitude)
Service ceiling 19,811 m
Use radius approx. 5500 km with a 24-hour stay in the target area k. A.
Max. Flight duration 36 h k. A.
Transfer range 25,015 km 22,780 km
Payload reconnaissance systems 907 kg 1,360 kg
Engine a Rolls-Royce F137-RR-100 - turbofan engine
Thrust 36.8 kN


Of the first seven Global Hawk, three drones were lost:

  • The second prototype (S / N 2) crashed on March 29, 1999 on a test flight after it had wrongly received the order to abort the mission from a ground station. The drone went into a flat spin and could no longer be brought into a controlled flight condition even after the fuel was released. She hit the China Lake Naval Weapons Center. Human error was determined as the cause of the accident.
  • The fifth prototype (S / N 5) crashed on December 30, 2001 on a flight in Afghanistan because the control linkages for the V-tail unit were not properly connected. The cause of the accident was again determined to be human error and an "inadequate test concept" .
  • Global Hawk S / N 4 suffered engine damage on July 11, 2002 because several blades in the engine were broken. The drone could be kept in the air for two hours with the remaining power and collided with a sand dune during the emergency landing that had been prepared in the meantime.

In addition, there was another incident with the serial number 7 on June 3, 2003, in which the drone was safely landed on Edwards AFB after an engine failure.

  • On June 20, 2019, an RQ-4A BAMS-D (earlier reports were incorrectly based on an MQ-4C Triton) of the US Navy was shot down by the Revolutionary Guard off the coast of Iran . According to Iranian information, the aircraft was inside, and according to US information outside of Iranian airspace. This also created tension in the Gulf of Oman .


  • J. Chris Naftel: NASA Global Hawk: Project Overview and Future Plans. 34th International Symposium on Remote Sensing of Environment, Sydney 2011, pdf online @ NTRS, accessed August 15, 2011

Web links

Commons : Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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  2. New drones for the Air Force: exit clause included. Retrieved June 23, 2019 .
  3. a b c Factsheets: RQ-4 Global Hawk. (No longer available online.) US Air Force, Nov. 2009, archived from the original on Feb. 3, 2010 ; accessed on October 6, 2019 (English).
  4. Global Hawk: High-altitude, long-endurance science aircraft ,, accessed on August 14, 2011
  5. GloPac - Science Overview ,
  6. ^ NOAA Studies Atmospheric 'Rivers' Using Unmanned Aircraft ( Memento from September 10, 2011 in the Internet Archive ),, accessed on August 15, 2011
  7. US Navy UAV Crashes in Maryland ,, accessed June 11, 2012
  9. Flight Global: Northrop Grumman gets ready for HALE air-to-air refueling. Retrieved August 26, 2012 .
  10. a b c FlugRevue November 2011, pp. 48–52, Global Hawk is indispensable
  11. ISAF confirms 2011 Global Hawk crash. Flightglobal, February 14, 2012, accessed February 15, 2012 .
  12. ^ Loose wire caused Afghanistan Global Hawk crash. Flightglobal, March 7, 2012, accessed March 21, 2012 .
  13. ^ A b Pentagon: Block 30 Global Hawks not effective. International, June 10, 2011, accessed June 11, 2011 .
  14. More Tidbits on Global Hawk Block 30 Termination. (No longer available online.) March 21, 2012, archived from the original on November 20, 2012 ; accessed on October 6, 2019 .
  15. Dan Parsons: USAF finalises Block 30 Global Hawk purchase. September 18, 2014, accessed September 19, 2014 .
  16. FliegerRevue August 2009, p. 8, New Global Hawk presented
  17. Global Hawk Block 40 in flight test. FlugRevue, December 9, 2010, accessed March 21, 2011 .
  18. ^ Gareth Jennings: USAF to field additional BACN Global Hawk. (No longer available online.) May 4, 2017, archived from the original on May 4, 2017 ; accessed on May 4, 2017 .
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