Modern military commanders demand accurate and timely reconnaissance information.  The RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial system (UAS) provides air, ground and sea force commanders the near-real-time reconnaissance imagery they need to defeat an enemy around the world.

First flown in 1998, Global Hawk’s powerful digital camera and infrared sensor gather imagery in any weather condition, day or night.  Through satellite links and ground relay stations, that information is transmitted immediately anywhere in the world.  Its Synthetic-Aperture Radar/Moving Target Indicator lets ground crews track small, moving objects on the ground.

A typical, pre-programmed Global Hawk mission can include a 1,200-mile flight to an area of interest, 24 hours flying over the area, and the flight back to base.  In just 24 hours, the RQ-4 can survey an area the size of Illinois (about 40,000 square miles) while cruising above the range of enemy air defenses.

Two small ground teams manage Global Hawk’s flights: a launch and recovery element (LRE) loads flight plans and makes necessary adjustments to the vehicle while a mission control element (MCE) made up of a pilot and sensor operator manages the aircraft and its sensors during flight.

Among the RQ-4’s accomplishments are winning the 2000 Collier Trophy for aeronautical achievement and achieving the first autonomous UAS flight across the Pacific Ocean.  This autonomous flight from California to Australia was made in just over 23 hours.  Global Hawk set a world record for jet-powered UAS endurance in 2000 by flying for more than 31.5 hours at a mean altitude of 65,100 feet.

The RQ-4A Global Hawk on display, serial number 02-2011, was the fourth production unit built and made its first flight in August 2004.  It flew operational missions in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.  Over its career, this aircraft completed 422 flights for 7,658.5 total hours flying time.  After its final flight in May 2011, the aircraft was disassembled at Beale AFB and prepared for shipment to Robins AFB.  It arrived at the Museum of Aviation in September 2011 and was placed on public display in January 2015.

  • Span: 116 ft.
  • Length: 44 ft.
  • Height: 15.2 ft.
  • Maximum takeoff weight: 26,750 lbs.
  • Armament: None
  • Serial Number: 02-2011
  • Engine: Rolls-Royce AE 3007H turbofan of 7,600 lbs. thrust
  • Maximum speed: 391 mph.
  • Range: 9,500 miles
  • Ceiling: 60,000 ft.