Picky intelligence: what the RQ-4 Global Hawk can do and why the US sent this drone to the Black Sea


Picky intelligence: what the RQ-4 Global Hawk can do and why the US sent this drone to the Black Sea

After the US lost the MQ-9 Reaper drone in the Black Sea, the Americans decided to send another drone, the RQ-4 Global Hawk, to the same area. This drone is a fairly frequent guest in the airspace of Ukraine.

About the characteristics of the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone, its flight range, as well as the task – read further in the material of Channel 24 .

What is the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone for?

The military portal Defense Express says that the RQ-4A Global Hawk drone is designed for strategic air reconnaissance.

To do this, the drone is equipped with an integrated HISAR surveillance and reconnaissance system. It includes synthetic aperture radar (SAR), as well as electron-optical and infrared sensors.

Synthetic aperture radar provides a radar image of the terrain in any weather conditions (resolution – up to 1 m).

In addition, the radar can detect moving ground objects (MTI (moving target indicator) mode), with the determination of their coordinates and speed within a radius of 100 kilometers.

The combined SAR/MTI mode enables observation with a resolution of 6 meters in a band 37 kilometers wide and 20 to 110 kilometers long.

RQ-4A Global Hawk is designed for strategic air reconnaissance / Photo military.com

A daytime electro-optical digital camera provides high resolution images. There are two modes of operation: scanning a 10 km wide strip and obtaining detailed images in a 2×2 km area.

All three subsystems – SAR / MTI, OE and IC can work simultaneously. The images are processed on board the UAV and transmitted to the ground station in the form of individual frames – in real time within the line of sight or via a satellite channel to the ground station at a speed of up to 50 Mbps.

Features and price of RQ-4 Global Hawk

As “Military” wrote, according to the American classification, the RQ-4 belongs to the HALE class – High Alnitude, Long Endurance – that is, high-altitude, with a long flight duration.

The dimensions of the Global Hawk are rather big, because it is one of the largest drones in the world. The first series had a length of 13.53 meters, a wingspan of 35.42 meters and a height of 4.45 meters.

Since the Block 20 series, these parameters have grown to 14.51 meters, 39.90 meters and 4.69 meters, respectively. The payload mass has also increased – from 907 to 1361 kg. For comparison: the wingspan of a passenger Boeing 737-800 is 34.30 meters.

RQ-4A Global Hawk several times monitored the situation on the borders of Ukraine / Photo military.com

The Global Hawk has a takeoff weight of 15 tons and a wingspan of about 40 meters. It can stay in the air for 30 hours at an altitude of up to 18,000 meters.

The cost of one unmanned aircraft ranges from 180 to 215 million dollars. One hour of flight costs 31 thousand dollars.

The performance characteristics of the drone Global Hawk

  • Length 13.53 m. 14.50 m.
  • Wingspan 35.42m 39.89m
  • Wing area 50.10 m²
  • Wing extension 25.04
  • Specific Wing Load 232 kg/m²
  • Height 4.63 m. 4.63 m.
  • Own weight 5148 kg. 6,781 kg.
  • Takeoff weight 12133 kg. 14 628 kg.
  • Fuel tank volume 6985 l 7847 l.
  • Maximum speed 837 km/h 637 km/h
  • Ceiling 19811 m 19811 m
  • Operating range approximately 5500 km with 24-hour stay in the destination area
  • Maximum flight duration 36 hours
  • Range 2 5015 km 22 780 km
  • Payload 907 kg. 1 360 kg.

RQ-4 Global Hawk in Ukraine: what is known

In January 2022, the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone of the US Air Force for the first time monitored the border with Belarus and Russia for Ukraine. The UAV with the callsign UAVGH000 took off from an airbase in the UAE and reached our country through the airspace of Iraq, Jordan, Greece and Bulgaria.

First, he made several circles in northern Ukraine between Zhytomyr and Konotop, after which he headed towards Izyum in the Kharkiv region. There he continued flights between four regions – Poltava, Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk and Zaporozhye regions.

In February 2022, the RQ-4 Global Hawk monitored the border, Donbass and Crimea over Ukraine. Also, an American reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle monitored the areas of exercises closed by Russia in the Black Sea.

The RQ-4 Global Hawk operated in areas that civilian airliners bypass during Russian Navy exercises.

The United States will write off the RQ-4 Global Hawk / Photo military.com

In October 2022, the drone again patrolled Ukrainian airspace. He circled for several hours at an altitude of 17 kilometers above the neutral waters of the Black Sea, 100 kilometers from the occupied Sevastopol.

On March 17, 2023, the United States sent an RQ-4 Global Hawk with the callsign FORTE10 to the Black Sea after an MQ-9 Reaper drone was shot down on March 14. The UAV took off from the Sigonella airbase near the Italian city of Catania, after which it was in Romanian airspace for some time.

US to write off RQ-4 Global Hawk

  • The US Air Force plans to say goodbye to its RQ-4 Global Hawk by the end of 2027. We are talking about the decommissioning of 9 UAVs in the Block 40 version, which are modern versions of the Global Hawk in the US Air Force arsenal.
  • In August 2022, the US military finally confirmed that decommissioned RQ-4 Global Hawk drones of the Block 20 and Block 30 versions will be reconfigured into RangeHawk for use as part of the SkyRange hypersonic weapons test program.
  • RangeHawk drones will be able to collect much higher quality data than traditional test support ships. In addition, RangeHawk should also significantly reduce the time required to prepare for testing.

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