Global Hawk Arrives at Civilian Airfield in Australia for the Air Show


2015-02-22 According to an Australian Ministry of Defence story published on February 22, 2015, the Global Hawk has landed in Australia for the Avalon Air Show.

A United States (US) Global Hawk flew into Avalon airport on 21 February, 2015 for the Australian International Airshow.

The arrival of the US Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk marks the first time a military Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) has flown into an Airshow in Australia and the first time a military UAS has landed at an Australian commercial/civil airport.

The Australian Defence Force is proud to be part of the 2015 International Air show with displays commemorating the Centenary of ANZAC and 100 years of military aviation service to Australia.

The video ends with a comment that “we can expect these types of operations in the future.”

What the Group Captain might have had in mind is not just the United States but the Asian allies of Australia.

According to this story published December 17, 2014 by Seth Robson in Stars and Stripes, the sale of Global Hawk in the region was the focus of attention.

The U.S. government has approved the sale of four RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance drones to South Korea.

The foreign military sale is included in a list of contracts announced on the Defense Department’s website Monday.

Northrop Grumman Systems Corp.“has been awarded a $657,400,000 hybrid contract … for aircraft for the Republic of Korea,” the announcement stated.

The contract includes four RQ-4B Block 30 Global Hawk aircraft, two spare engines and ground control equipment. The first Global Hawk is to be delivered in 2018, the San Diego, Calif.-based company said in a statement. Each aircraft will contain an “Enhanced Integrated Sensor Suite,” the DOD announcement said.

South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration confirmed the sale but declined to provide details Tuesday.

Northrop Grumman said the contract is the first sale of the aircraft to an allied nation in the Asia Pacific under the Foreign Military Sales process.

Several other U.S. allies in the region, including Japan and Australia, have expressed interest in acquiring the Global Hawk or a naval version of the aircraft — the MQ-4C Triton.

“This will provide critically needed wide-area surveillance capability to military commanders so they can make more informed decisions,” the Northrop Grumman statement said.

The U.S. Air Force has flown Global Hawks out of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, since 2010 and there are plans to base a pair of Tritons there from 2017.

The aircraft are seen as a key tool in keeping tabs on North Korea’s nuclear weapons development and Chinese naval maneuvers.

Hawaii-based Pacific Forum think tank President Ralph Cossa, a former Air Force officer, said South Korea’s acquisition of the drones is part of efforts to give the country’s military commanders operational control of forces on the peninsula during any war with North Korea.

Under the current arrangement, U.S. commanders would take command of all U.S. and South Korean troops in the event of war.

“Part of the concept of Opcon transfer to the Koreans involves them doing a whole lot of things to upgrade their capabilities,” Cossa said. “This (the Global Hawk) is a significant upgrade.”

The South Korean surveillance planes will add to American situational awareness in the region, he said.

“It is a force multiplier in many respects,” he said of the acquisition. “You are looking for greater contributions from allies and this is certainly a way they will be able to cooperate and add to our capabilities.”

The South Korean Global Hawks will focus almost exclusively on North Korea, Cossa said.

“They certainly won’t be looking at the Chinese but the more the Koreans are doing for themselves frees up U.S. assets to do other things.”

And Australia itself will have its own Global Hawk in terms of the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton Broad Area Maritime Surveillance UAS system.

According to the RAAF website:

The MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), is a high altitude, long endurance (HALE) aircraft that will be used for maritime patrol and other surveillance roles.

Supporting missions up to 24 hours, the MQ-4C Triton is equipped with a sensor suite that provides a 360-degree view of its surroundings, for over 2,000 nautical miles.

Up to seven MQ-4C Tritons will be based at RAAF Base Edinburgh (SA) and will operate from the runway alongside the P-8A Poseidon when it enters RAAF service.

The MQ-4C Triton will operate alongside the P-8A to replace the ageing AP-3C Orion capability. The endurance of the MQ-4C Triton means it can stay airborne for longer than a traditional aircraft where the pilot is in the aircraft.

Like other Air Force aircraft, the Triton will be flown by a qualified RAAF pilots, experienced in complex airspace. However the Triton will be flown a ground station where pilots are supported by a co-pilot while the information gathered is analysed and disseminated by up to operational staff.

Operational staff may include aircrew, intelligence, operations and administration officers, engineers and logisticians, depending on the training or mission requirements.

Whilst building on elements of the Global Hawk UAS, the Triton incorporates reinforcements to the airframe and wing, along with de-icing and lightning protection systems. These capabilities allow the aircraft to descend through cloud layers to gain a closer view of ships and other targets at sea when needed and will complement theP-8A Poseidon.

The Triton platform has been under development by the United States Navy since 2008.