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Global Hawk operations reach new high

by Staff Sgt. Melissa Koskovich
U.S. Central Command Air Forces-Forward Public Affairs

5/15/2006 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- Battlefield awareness has reached new levels with Global Hawk production-model aircraft flying in the U.S. Central Command Air Forces theater. 

Reaching a breakthrough point in April, the Global Hawk team has maximized the aircraft’s sorties, collecting more than 96 percent of the target area -- nearly 5,000 images of enemy locations, resources and personnel. 

The Global Hawk, surveying large geographic areas with pinpoint accuracy and giving military commanders near real-time information, has proven its worth in recent operations, said Capt. Ty Gilbert, senior intelligence duty officer at the combined air operations center, or CAOC, here. 

“With the Global Hawk, we are seeing the capabilities we’ve talked about in the past,” he said. 

In 2003, a test-model Global Hawk was sent to the theater. Officials expected it to fly for 500 hours. Instead, the aircraft flew close to 5,000.
With its multiple sensors and ability to gather vast amounts of imagery, the Global Hawk brings a welcome dimension to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR, operations. 

“What’s unique about the Global Hawk in comparison to other ISR platforms is the persistence it offers in providing imagery and intelligence,” said Maj. Ricky Thomas, Global Hawk platform liaison officer at the CAOC. 

With the ability to loiter for up to 24 hours, the aircraft can monitor the whole theater with few limitations. 

“We don’t have to have a black line; we can go wherever the images are needed,” Major Thomas said. “The downside is that we are kind of the intelligence juggernaut. We can provide more intelligence than we have targets.” 

In addition to the platform’s ISR capabilities, its flexibility is another key to the battlefield success. 

“The Global Hawk allows commanders to rapidly re-task the aircraft in flight. Recently in Afghanistan we had an aircraft crash,” Major Thomas said. “By the time notifications of the crash were received, the Global Hawk put an image of the crash site in the hands of the individuals planning the rescue.” 

The Global Hawk team is only one aspect of the overall effort to ensure complete battlespace awareness. 

“Air power comes in all different flavors,” Captain Gilbert said. “ISR is the flavor that we offer, and the Global Hawk is a key element in providing that punch for the warfighter.” 

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