History Today in Military History

Today in military history: First flight of unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawk

Team Mighty Avatar

On Feb. 28, 1998, the RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft made its first flight. 

The Global Hawk is a high-altitude, long endurance unmanned aircraft system that provides intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities worldwide. It can gather near-real-time, high resolution imagery of large areas of land in all types of weather — day or night.

Its mission is to collect information worldwide in peace, armistice, or war. Since its acquisition by the U.S. military, the Global Hawk has flown in support of combat missions for Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Inherent Resolve, as well as humanitarian missions such as after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. 

The Global Hawk allows decision-makers to gather a greater understanding of their area of interest, including combat zones, areas struck by natural disasters, or even weather prediction.

In 2019, enlisted airmen qualified as pilots for the first time in 70 years. 

Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance is the number one most requested capability by combat commanders and for more than a year enlisted airmen have been helping the Air Force meet this demand by piloting the RQ-4 Global Hawk.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein has continually expressed the importance of the ISR force and finding innovative methods to relieve the pressure of getting commanders on the ground more data.

“Looking at new ways to operate within our [remotely piloted aircraft] enterprise is critical given that ISR missions continue to be the number one most requested capability by our combatant commanders. We expect that will only continue to expand,” said Goldfein. “We know our enlisted airmen are ready to take on this important mission as we determine the right operational balance of officer and enlisted in this ISR enterprise for the future.”