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RQ-4B soars past 10,000 flying hours

SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- An RQ-4B Global Hawk embarked on an Operation Inherent Resolve mission March 7, which sent the aircraft soaring past the 10,000 flying-hour milestone at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.

The RQ-4B aircraft 2019, or A2019, was the first block 20 and first RQ-4B model to arrive here Oct. 16, 2010. During its service, the aircraft has been providing support to warfighters by relaying communications between people and aircraft as well as enabling airstrikes on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

“This particular aircraft carries the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) payload, which replaces the imagery sensors normally installed in the aircraft,” said Lt. Col. Anthony, the launch and recovery element operations supervisor. “It is primarily a data and communications bridging node. It can support multiple bridges simultaneously across multiple radio types. We like to call it ‘Wi-Fi in the sky’.”

Both manned and unmanned aircraft continue to fly in support of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) requirements for Operation Inherent Resolve. ISR helps coalition leaders gain better insight about the security situation on the ground, and strengthen the ability of Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces and their international partners to effectively counter ISIL.

The accomplishment of flying more than 10,000 hours was shared by the entire Global Hawk aircraft maintenance unit and supporting units.

“It takes a team effort to maintain an aircraft,” said Staff Sgt. Paul, an RQ-4B Global Hawk crew chief. “Every six months there is a new rotation with a new group of people who have helped maintain this aircraft since its arrival.”

Paul has been working with this aircraft off and on for over nine months, most of which has been here in the area of responsibility.

“When I got here the jet had 9,104.9 flying hours,” said Paul, currently deployed from Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. “Yesterday’s milestone flight was flight 402 and it took off with 9,982.9 hours. It flew for 30.5 hours and landed Mar. 8, surpassing the 10,000 flying hour milestone.”

A2019 also holds the record for the longest block 20 flight, which is currently set at 31.5 flying hours.

(Editor’s note: Due to safety and security reasons, last names and unit designators were removed.)