Airmen of the 319th Reconnaissance Wing divested five RQ-4 Block 30s by transferring them across the runway to civilian partners at Grand Sky June 6-10, 2022. The 319th RW will divest a total of 20 Global Hawks, and they should be transferred to Northrop Grumman at Grand Sky by the end of July. They will be outfitted with different sensor technology before beginning their new careers as part of the Test Resource Management Center’s High Speed System Test department. This will be quite a pivot for the Global Hawk, which traditionally ‘looked down’ from nearly 60,000 feet while loitering more than 12 hours on station at locations across the globe.
“There’s no way to count how many American and allied lives this specific sensor payload saved between the enhanced integrated sensor suite and airborne signals intelligence. Putting those capabilities in the hands of our Airmen created near real-time intelligence for warfighters,” said Col. Timothy Curry, commander of the 319th RW.
“We must transform our force today to the Air Force we need tomorrow,” said Gen. C.Q. Brown, Jr., Air Force chief of staff, in the divestment execution memo. “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.”
The Block 30 divestment is part of the Air Force’s plan to restructure intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to meet national defense priorities and support joint all-domain command and control capabilities. The divestment also assists in funding modernization and increases capability to counter threats posed by peer competitors like China and Russia. The Air Force plans to budget for construction and renovation projects to occur during 2023-2026 to support future 319th RW missions. As these new missions take shape, Grand Forks’ 319th RW will continue to operate RQ-4 Block 40 aircraft through the late 2020s.
The Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk is a high-altitude, remotely-piloted surveillance aircraft. It was initially designed by Ryan Aeronautical (now part of Northrop Grumman), and known as Tier II+ during development. The RQ-4 provides a broad overview and systematic surveillance using high-resolution synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors with long loiter times over target areas. It can survey as much as 40,000 square miles (100,000 km2) of terrain per day, an area the size of South Korea or Iceland. The Global Hawk is operated by the United States Air Force (USAF). It is used as a high-altitude long endurance (HALE) platform covering the spectrum of intelligence collection capability to support forces in worldwide military operations.