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Beale Airmen, ISR assets support California wildfires

The 9th Reconnaissance Wing's U-2 and Global Hawk surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft from Beale Air Force Base, Calif., have been tasked to collect high-altitude imagery of the wildfires in Southern California. (U.S. Air Force illustration)

The 9th Reconnaissance Wing's U-2 and Global Hawk surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft from Beale Air Force Base, Calif., have been tasked to collect high-altitude imagery of the wildfires in Southern California. (U.S. Air Force illustration)

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFPN) -- Members of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing are currently flying U-2 and Global Hawk surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft and collecting high-altitude imagery of the wildfires in Southern California in support of the U.S. Air Force Northern Command's mission there.

A U-2 from Beale Air Force Base flew a six-hour mission Oct. 24 and a Global Hawk will provide additional support, scheduled to take off Oct. 25 at approximately 4 p.m. and fly through the night.

The imagery collected by these aircraft is being used to provide humanitarian support to the region affected. Additionally it is used to determine the current status of the fires. 

The technology of the Global Hawk contributes significantly to the information collected on the California fires, said Brig. Gen. James O. Poss, the Air Combat Command director of intelligence. 

This is the first time the Global Hawk has been used domestically, General Poss said. The aircraft has been tested domestically, but this is the first civil emergency it has flown in. 

"The Global Hawk has very capable infrared sensors that can pick up the heat source of the fire," the general said. "It should see through a considerable amount of smoke to be able to identify the real source of the fires to our firefighters." The ability to produce an image without the smoke is an advantage absent in digital satellite imagery.

The Global Hawk is the Air Force's largest, most-capable unmanned aerial vehicle, he said. It can also use radar to produce a near photographic image, originally designed to be used at night to produce a daylight-like image. General Poss said he hopes the technological capabilities of the Global Hawk will help make a detailed prediction of where the fire might go.

Because the Global Hawk is unmanned, as the pilots fly the aircraft from the ground at Beale AFB.

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