Beale Air Force Base officials recently announced that a “critical” remotely-piloted surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft will no longer be flown or used at the base.
According to the Air Force, the RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 assigned to the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron departed on July 7. The RQ-4 Global Hawk had been at the base since October 2004, with the RQ-4 Block 30 being the most recent model.
Officials said the removal of the aircraft at Beale was due in part to a “plan to restructure intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to meet national defense priorities and support joint all-domain command and control capabilities.”
The Air Force said the divestment of the RQ-4 Global Hawk will allow the military branch to help fund increased modernization and combat threats posed by “near peer competitors” such as China and Russia.
“We must transform our force today to the Air Force we need tomorrow,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. C.Q. Brown Jr. said in a statement. “The divestment of this weapons system was a tough but necessary resourcing choice we had to make in order to begin realizing a budgeted savings of over two billion dollars.”
According to the Air Force, “The RQ-4 Global Hawk is a high-altitude, long-endurance, remotely piloted aircraft with an integrated sensor suite that provides global all-weather, day or night intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability. Global Hawk’s mission is to provide a broad spectrum of ISR collection capability to support joint combatant forces in worldwide peacetime, contingency and wartime operations. The Global Hawk provides persistent near-real-time coverage using imagery intelligence, signals intelligence and moving target indicator sensors.”
The Air Force said the RQ-4 Global Hawk has “unmatched range” and the ability to fly for more than 30 hours.
“In 2014, an RQ-4 Block 40 flew a 34.3 hour flight, setting the endurance record for longest unrefueled flight by a U.S. Air Force aircraft,” the Air Force said.
Officials said the RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30s from units such as Beale, Sigonella Air Station and Anderson Air Force Base are returning to the 319th Reconnaissance Wing in Grand Forks, N.D. From there, they will be transferred to Northrop Grumman Corporation, an American multinational aerospace and defense technology company, where they will be “outfitted with different sensor technology” before becoming part of the Test Resource Management Center’s High Speed System Test department.
“The RQ-4 mission at Beale AFB has come to an end, and the 12th RS guide on will be folded perhaps by the end of this year,” 4th Reconnaissance Squadron Deputy Lt. Col. Michael said. “Our personnel now have new opportunities across the Air Force.”
Beale officials said that at any given time, about 450 airmen were involved in making the Block 30 mission possible.
“The 12th RS and Block 30 aircraft have provided critical ISR for a number of named operations to include: ENDURING FREEDOM, IRAQI FREEDOM, ODYSSEY DAWN, FREEDOMS SENTINAL, and NEW DAWN,” an Air Force official said. “The Global Hawk has flown over 320,000 flight hours in support of global combatant command directives.”
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