UAV’s (Northrop Grumman)

High-Altitude, Long-Endurance Unmanned Aircraft Systems

The Q-4 Enterprise: Proven, Persistent, Performing


Global Hawk Mission

Northrop Grumman RQ-4

Northrop Grumman RQ-4 (Photo credit: gordontour)

The family of high-flying HALE Unmanned Systems builds on the common RQ-4 Global Hawk airframe. When equipped with a variety of available mission-specific sensors, they provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) information over a vast geographic area without putting anyone in harm’s way. Global Hawk missions are to provide a broad spectrum of ISR collection capability to support joint combatant forces in worldwide peacetime, contingency and wartime operations. The systems can also be used for various civil and commercial missions such as border patrol, port surveillance, hurricane monitoring, disaster relief support, and high-altitude scientific research. The systems complement manned and space reconnaissance systems by providing near-real-time coverage using radar, imagery intelligence (IMINT) sensors, signals intelligence (SIGINT), and communications relay capability.

Current Q-4 Programs:

Global Hawk (U.S. Air Force)
Global Hawk (U.S. Air Force)

English: A Global Hawk at NASA's Dryden Flight...

English: A Global Hawk at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in California’s Mojave Desert. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A combat-proven HALE UAS with extraordinary ISR capabilities, providing near-real-time high resolution imagery of large geographical areas all day and night in all types of weather. The current Global Hawk enterprise is made up of four complimentary systems, or Blocks. Block 10, the initial airframe after the DARPA technology demonstration, was deployed overseas shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and quickly proved its usefulness. Block 20, the first production version, was unveiled in August 2006. Block 30 adds critical signals intelligence (SIGINT) capability to the Global Hawk family. And Block 40, currently in the final development stages, will provide revolutionary new capabilities with the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP) active electronically scanned array radar. During its trials with the Air Force’s 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron and during its first deployment in Operation Enduring Freedom, the Global Hawk system was shown to be flexible and dynamically re-taskable. 

BAMS (U.S. Navy)

English: Illustration of the United States Nav...

United States Navy’s BAMS unmanned aircraft. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The United States Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) program provides persistent maritime Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) data collection and dissemination capability to the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force (MPRF). The BAMS UAS is a multi-mission system to support strike, signals intelligence, and communications relay as an adjunct to the MMA/P-3 community to enhance manpower, training and maintenance efficiencies worldwide. The U.S. Navy procured two Block 10 Global Hawks for the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD) program from the U.S. Air Force, and is using them to help define concept of operations for maritime surveillance, as well as for sensor technology experimentation and fleet orientation exercises. 

NASA Global Hawk (NASA Dryden)
NASA Global Hawk

A NASA Global Hawk in flight

Partnership between NASA Dryden and Northrop Grumman to demonstrate HALE capability for future customers and experiments for the environmental science community to include NOAA, NASA, Department of Energy, and universities. Northrop Grumman will share in use of the aircraft to conduct its own flight demonstrations for expanded markets, missions and airborne capabilities, including UAS integration into national airspace. The NASA Global Hawk has participated in experiments including Global Hawk Pacific (GloPac) 2010 and Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP).

Euro Hawk® (Germany) 
Euro Hawk (Germany)First international version of the Global Hawk UAS for the German Ministry of Defence. The Euro Hawk® is a derivative of the Block 20 Global Hawk, equipped with new SIGINT mission system developed by EADS. The SIGINT system provides stand-off capability to detect electronic intelligence (ELINT) and communications intelligence (COMINT) radar emitters. EADS will also provide the ground stations that will receive and analyze the data from Euro Hawk® as part of an integrated system solution. 

NATO AGS (U.S. and Allied Nations)
NATO AGSAfter many years exploring options for a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-owned and operated airborne ground surveillance capability, NATO agreed to a program of record based on the Block 40 Global Hawk with an MP-RTIP sensor. In September 2007, nations agreed to move forward with a UAS-only solution based on an off-the-shelf Block 40. A contract valued at $1.7 billion (€1.2 billion) was signed during the NATO Summit in May 2012. Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the NATO AGS program, supported by industries in the 13 participating nations. 


RQ-4 Block 10 Global HawkGlobal Hawk has its origins in the 1995 High-Altitude Endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (HAE UAV ACTD) program initiated by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office (DARO). The Global Hawk effort succeeded because it focused on the design and construction of a practical air vehicle that was developmentally mature enough to be transitioned into an operational weapons system. While still a developmental system, the Global Hawk system began supporting overseas contingency operations only two months after the September 11, 2001 attacks, with thousands of combat hours and missions completed thus far.


World Records:

  • April 23, 2001: Global Hawk became the first unmanned, powered aircraft to cross the world’s largest ocean when it landed in Australia at 8:40 p.m. local time after a 23-hour, 20-minute trip across the Pacific Ocean.
  • March 22, 2008: Global Hawk set the endurance record for a full-scale, operational unmanned aircraft when it completed a flight of 33.1 hours at altitudes up to 60,000 feet over Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.


  • Robert J. Collier Trophy: In 2000, Northrop Grumman along with key government and industry partners received this coveted trophy for designing, building, testing, and operating Global Hawk.
  • Airworthiness Certification: Global Hawk is the first UAS to achieve a military airworthiness certification, which along with the certificate of authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration, recognizes Global Hawk’s ability to routinely fly within national airspace.


The Block 20/30/40 version represents a significant increase in capability over the Block 10 configuration. The larger Block 20/30/40 aircraft can carry up to 3,000 pounds of internal payload and operate with two-and-a-half times the power of its predecessor. Its open system architecture, a so-called “plug-and-play” environment, can accommodate new sensors and communication systems as they are developed to help military customers quickly evaluate and adopt new technologies.

When fully fueled for flight, the Block 20/30/40 weighs approximately 32,250 pounds. More than half the system’s components are constructed of lightweight, high-strength composite materials, including its wings, wing fairings, empennage, engine cover, nacelles and three radomes. Its main fuselage is standard aluminum, semi-monocoque construction.

Block 10
Wingspan: 116.2 ft (35.4 m)
Length: 44.4 ft (13.5 m)
Height: 14.6 ft (4.2 m)
Gross Takeoff Weight: 26,700 lbs (12,110.9 kg)
Maximum Altitude: 65,000 ft (19.8 km)
Payload: 2,000 lbs (907.2 kg)
Ferry Range: 12,000 nm (22,236 km)
Loiter Velocity: 343 knots TAS (True Air Speed)
On-Station Endurance at 1,200 nm: 24 hours
Maximum Endurance: 32+ hours

Block 20/30/40
Wingspan: 130.9 ft (39.9 m)
Length: 47.6 ft (14.5m)
Height: 15.4 ft (4.7m)
Gross Takeoff Weight: 32,250 lbs (14,628 kg)
Maximum Altitude: 60,000 ft (18.3 km)
Payload: 3,000 lbs (1,360 kg)
Ferry Range: 12,300 nm (22,780 km)
Loiter Velocity: 310 knots TAS (True Air Speed)
On-Station Endurance at 1,200 nm: 24 hours
Maximum Endurance: 32+ hours


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