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Air Force receives newest Global Hawk

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The seventh Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle lands here after its flight from Air Force Plant 42 in nearby Palmdale, Calif., The UAV was built by lead government contractor Northrop Grumman.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Mike Charlie)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The seventh Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle lands here after its flight from Air Force Plant 42 in nearby Palmdale, Calif., The UAV was built by lead government contractor Northrop Grumman. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mike Charlie)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFPN) -- The seventh Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle touched down here Feb. 14 after its flight from Air Force Plant 42 in nearby Palmdale, Calif., where it was built by lead government contractor Northrop Grumman.

This latest Global Hawk is the program's final advanced concept technology platform and is slated for use as a test vehicle to support development and upgrade efforts.

The aircraft incorporates all of the improvements made to the Global Hawk to date in support of its current acquisition strategy, known as spiral development. The strategy is expected to deliver initial Global Hawk capabilities sooner than more conventional acquisition methods.

"The new arrival is the first true test aircraft and will define all future production models of the Global Hawk," said Lt. Col. Michael Guidry, director of the Global Vigilance Combined Test Force here, who controlled the aircraft's first landing at Edwards.

Many of the improvements made to the reconnaissance aircraft stem from its early operational debut in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Key to these improvements is the new integrated mission management computer system, which controls all of the flying and navigation operations of the aircraft. After minor modifications here, the test force will begin a full-scale developmental test program, which includes an evaluation of the new computer system.

"The events of the last year have proven there is a real-world need for the capability this aircraft brings to our warfighters," said Guidry. "The aircraft will allow us to continue supporting those who take this system into combat by ensuring the improvements that have been integrated into this version are performing as expected."

The flight was a symbol of the combined nature of Global Hawk testing, added Guidry. Vance Greenway, Northrop Grumman's lead Global Hawk test pilot, controlled the aircraft during the takeoff phase and Lt. Col. Tom Thibodeau of the 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron, an Air Combat Command unit at Edwards, conducted in-flight tests.

The Global Hawk is designed to provide battlefield commanders with near real-time, high-resolution, reconnaissance imagery. Flying at extremely high altitudes, Global Hawk can survey large geographic areas giving military decision-makers the most current information about enemy resources and personnel.

The test force at Edwards continues to work closely with the Reconnaissance Systems Program Office at Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, said Guidry. The program office is responsible for moving Global Hawk toward low-rate initial production. The first two production Global Hawks are respectively slated for delivery to the Air Force by September and December.

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