by Staff Sgt. Luis Loza Gutierrez
319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
9/23/2013 - GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Although
the days of the bombers and tankers are long gone, Airmen at Grand
Forks Air Force Base, N.D., are still finding ways to make Air Force
history thanks to the Global Hawk mission.
The Northrop Grumman Corporation recently announced that its
high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft systems achieved 100,000
flight hours Sept. 5.
News of the milestone was well-received by the leadership and members of
the 69th Reconnaissance Group, the unit at Grand Forks AFB directly in
charge of conducting Global Hawk missions.
"This milestone is something in which those of us involved in the Global
Hawk mission take great pride," said Col. Lawrence Spinetta, 69th RG
According to the Air Force Safety Center, Kirtland AFB, N.M.,
approximately 85 percent of the 100,000 flight hours for this aircraft
were logged by U.S. Air Force Global Hawks. Credit for the remaining
flight hours was split among the NASA, German and U.S. Navy versions of
The Global Hawk also has the safest record of any fighter, bomber or
reconnaissance aircraft in the Air Force's active inventory.
"The safety record of the U.S. Air Force Global Hawk fleet is
remarkable, especially given the fact that the system was rushed to
combat and flew 75 percent of its first 100,000 hours supporting our
warfighters in Afghanistan and elsewhere," Spinetta said. "These figures
prove the reliability of unmanned aircraft technology. More
importantly, it's testament to the professionalism of our Airmen and the
pride they take in accomplishing our mission."
The Global Hawk is aptly named. Every day, RQ-4s circle the globe,
providing critical strategic intelligence, surveillance, and
reconnaissance to six combatant commands.
"The jet's long endurance is a significant combat force multiplier," Spinetta said.
The RQ-4, which can fly for upwards of 30 hours nonstop, has the ability
to cover almost half the circumference of the world without refueling.
That capability makes it a key contributor to the global vigilance,
global reach, and global power of the U.S. Air Force.
Spinetta reflected on the recent aviation milestone and contemplated what it means for the history of the Air Force.
He told members of the 69th RG that their hard work is "the realization
of an Air Force prophecy" by Gen. Henry H. "Hap" Arnold. As the
commanding general for the U.S. Army Air Force in 1945, Arnold said, "We
have just won a war with a lot of heroes flying around in planes. The
next war may be fought by airplanes with no men in them at all...Take
everything you've learned about aviation in war, throw it out the
window, and let's go to work on tomorrow's aviation."
Members of the 69th RG will receive patches from Northrop Grumman commemorating the milestone.
"Some people might refer to the patch as badge of honor, however, we
know the real honor is knowing we are doing an excellent job protecting
our warriors and our nation," Spinetta said. "That's exactly what we
will continue to do."