The eye of the US military in the sky: why the Global Hawk is such a powerful asset


Air Force and Northrop Grumman modernize RQ-4 Global Hawk with new ground control station; the new ground station command and control system is intended to develop new methods to reduce latency, accelerate attacks, provide a basis for software upgrades to improve detection and resolution of image and also allow a human-machine interface based on artificial intelligence. From a tactical standpoint, part of this is about speeding up what the developers at Northrop describe as ad hoc tasks where new intelligence information arriving quickly could lead to mission adjustments. Much of this is made possible by increased autonomy and an ability to quickly collect, process, analyze and transmit massive volumes of information in milliseconds by bouncing new data off a vast database for comparison, perform analyzes, solve problems and identify the most relevant moments. , without human intervention. The new unmanned aircraft control system also incorporates new cockpit displays and emerging cyber-hardening technologies.

The Global Hawk flies over hostile terrain in search of enemy targets for up to forty hours in a single mission, zooming in on high-fidelity, long-range sensors capable of monitoring training, force positioning and activity weapons of potential adversaries. Perhaps of the greatest importance, the Global Hawk finds and transmits crucial and urgent targeting details, a long-standing technical capability that perhaps explains at least in part why the Air Force is investing more money in the modernization and maintenance of its current fleet. These types of upgrades could be an indicator of how the Air Force sees a future with the Global Hawk: through upgrades while removing old variants. This could unleash efforts to further innovate and complete the on-going transformation of the Global Hawk into a combat platform well suited for a major high-threat war against a technologically advanced adversary.

According to the developers at Northrop, the Global Hawks have completed up to three hundred thousand operating hours over the past twenty years and will be able to fly and operate into the 2040s and beyond. The average age of the Global Hawk is eight years old. Northrop developers told the National interest that the composite and metallic materials of the unmanned aircraft allow the unmanned aircraft to fly for tens of thousands of hours of operation.

The rationale for upgrading and transitioning the Global Hawk for Great Power Warfare is based on the extent to which technological tweaks can allow a not-quite-stealth midsize unmanned aircraft to provide benefits. and a unique and unmatched survivability to a “contested” or high aircraft. – threat war scenario.

Although it is a larger platform, its high-altitude mission capability, coupled with long-range sensor openings, allows it to conduct high-risk missions in areas where aircraft without low altitude pilot could be vulnerable to destruction of enemy air defenses or electronic warfare. Sensor technology is also evolving at what you might call a staggering rate, meaning that ever smaller hardware systems are increasingly able to dramatically improve image resolution and dramatically expand detection and detection ranges. The Global Hawk also provided the technical infrastructure for the now operational maritime variant of the unmanned aircraft, called the MQ-4C Triton. Being configured with specially configured marine sensors and the ability to change altitude in freezing or inclement weather conditions, the Triton is intended to align and complement Global Hawk surveillance technologies.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National interest. Osborn previously served in the Pentagon as a highly trained expert in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. Osborn also worked as an on-air presenter and military specialist on national television networks. He has appeared as a visiting military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Diploma in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: Reuters.


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