Beale officials send Global Hawk to aid in Haiti earthquake relief efforts

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Luke Johnson
  • 9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs
Officials from the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron here launched an RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft from Beale Air Force Base Jan. 13 to assist with the humanitarian aid mission in Haiti after the country suffered a 7.0 magnitude earthquake Jan. 12.

The squadron received the short-notice mission from U.S. Southern Command officials to provide imagery to assist in the continuing relief efforts.

The Global Hawk, a high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft, is equipped with an integrated sensor suite to include synthetic aperture radar, electro-optical and medium-wave infrared sensors.

"(The imagery) will help to characterize what regions of the country were hit hardest by the earthquake, and we can provide that imagery to our intelligence unit on base," said Lt. Col. Mark Lozier, a 12th RS operations officer. "They'll exploit the imagery and send it back to the requesting end user."

Not only will the Global Hawk's advanced imagery provide an overall assessment of the damages, it will also help expeditiously direct aircrew flying into Haiti to deliver crucial supplies to those affected by the earthquake.

"In effect, you get to look at what we know is damaged, and what we know is still serviceable," Colonel Lozier said. "We can take a look at airfields to assess, right now, whether or not we will be able to get airlift in there with aid. We don't have to wait for a ground team to get in there and make on-site decisions."

The long range and endurance of the Global Hawk will allow flexibility in meeting mission requirements during the ongoing relief mission in Haiti.

"One of the ideal aspects of the Global Hawk for this purpose is its high altitude; we can stay airborne 27 to 28 hours," Colonel Lozier said. "We will be using most of that time to stay on station over in Haiti during most of daylight hours to image most of everything that we can with the highest fidelity."

This is not the first time the Global Hawk has been used to assist in a humanitarian crisis. In 2007 the imagery from the Global Hawk was used to assist California firefighters battling blazes in Southern California.

"Normally, we are supporting wartime efforts 24/7, it's nice to be able to use this jet in some other aspect other than our normal routine mission that we are all used to," Colonel Lozier said. "It's nice to be able to use this jet in a way that is helping in a crisis."