ready to edit
FB: Surveillance Milestone. Global Hawk hits 10,000 hours during flight against ISIS.
The Air Force's longest-deployed Global Hawk hit a major milestone while spying on Islamic State fighters over Iraq and Syria.
The RQ-4B, tail number A2019, hit the 10,000 flight-hour mark during a March 8 sortie March 8. The drone was the first to deploy to an undisclosed base in southwest Asia in October 2010 and has been flying surveillance flights ever since.
This Global Hawk isn't the typical surveillance aircraft, however. The drone flies with a Battlefield Airborne Communications Node payload, instead of the normal imagery sensors. This payload instead works as a data and communications "bridging node" to help other aircraft communicate to each other, said an unnamed Lt. Col. Anthony, a launch and recovery element supervisor who works with the aircraft. The Air Force typically does not identify airmen working in the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance ISR field.
"It can support multiple bridges simultaneously across multiple radio types," the lieutenant colonel he said in an Air Force release. "We like to call it 'Wi-Fi in the sky.' "
This aircraft also holds a record for the longest flight for the Global Hawk's original Block 20 variant, with a sortie that lasted 31.5 flying hours.
The mission of ISR aircraft in the region is to help the coalition battling the Islamic State group, also known as ISIL, to "strengthen the ability of Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces and their international partners to effectively counter ISIL," according to the Air Force.
While the aircraft is stationed at its base stays at the base, airmen rotate through on six-month deployments to maintain the Global Hawks.
"It takes a team effort to maintain an aircraft," an said Staff Sgt. Paul, RQ-4 Global Hawk crew chief, said in the release. "Every six months there is a new rotation with a new group of people who have helped maintain this aircraft since its arrival."