Air Force drone crashes into land in North Dakota
An Air Force drone that costs more than one of the most expensive fighter jets in history just crashed in a rural field north of Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota on Friday .
The RQ-4 Global Hawk is a $ 222 million spy drone that weighs 14,950 pounds, has a wingspan of 130.9 feet, and can survey an area the size of South Korea or Iceland in a day. . Friday’s crash is only the fifth non-combat loss in the aircraft’s 23-year flying history. It costs $ 144 million more than the F-35 Lightning II fighter, which now costs around $ 78 million.
The base wrote that a fire had been extinguished, although it is not clear whether the fire started as a result of the crash or whether there had ever been a fire on board the aircraft when ‘it crashed. The Grand Forks Air Force could not immediately respond to follow-up questions about the crash, saying the incident was under investigation.
“The 319th Reconnaissance Wing has personnel on site and we are planning recovery operations and the formal investigation could take several weeks,” said Col. Jeremy Fields, vice-commander of the 319th Reconnaissance Wing, the host unit from Grand Forks Air Force Base.
The base has asked the public to avoid the scene of the crash.
The unarmed Global Hawk has a set of high-tech sensors that collect intelligence for returning commanders. Concretely, the drone that crashed on Friday was a Block 40 model, a more recent variant equipped with a multiplatform radar technology insertion program. Clearly, this is an air-to-ground radar that creates a two- or three-dimensional reconstruction of the landscape of the observed area, giving observers a useful glimpse of what is happening there.
The Global Hawk is also designed to fly for a long time. In 2014, one of these drones set the record for the longest non-refueling flight performed by an Air Force aircraft after a 34.3-hour flight.
Despite the loss, Friday’s crash would have been a favor to some Air Force planners who wanted to start removing some of the older models from the Global Hawk. The only problem is that the drone that crashed was the new Block 40 model, and planners wanted to push back the old Block 20 and Block 30 models, according to Defense News.
Congress rejected the idea, citing the Global Hawk’s decades of service to combat commanders.
“Until the Air Force provides a [intelligence surveillance reconnaissance] modernization plan, discussed elsewhere in this bill, [Congress] will continue to be concerned about the sequence of withdrawals of operational aircraft without an appropriate replacement capability in place and available, ”members of the House and Senate armed forces committees said, according to Defense News.
One thing is certain: the large and expensive Global Hawk represents a form of air power that has served the United States well in the undisputed airspace of the Global War on Terrorism, but which may not survive anti-aircraft missiles from the United States. ‘a more symmetrical fight. This was demonstrated in 2019 when Iran shot down a Navy Global Hawk as it flew over international waters about 21 miles off the Iranian coast.
Still, an expert said the U.S. military would have done more to protect the drone if officials had expected an attack.
“If we had used that in combat… there would have been a whole other range of things we would have done to defend this aircraft,” retired Air Force Major General James Poss told Task & Purpose in 2019. “Shooting down a surveillance aircraft in peacetime in international waters is not a statement about the sophistication of your air defenses – it is a statement about your judgment, or the lack of judgment.
In 2014, the Air Force had 33 Global Hawks, and three more were to be deployed in 2017. After today, do minus one.
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