December 30, 2001: Global Hawk AV-5 Experienced a Class A Mishap

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  • Air Force Flight Test Center

Global Hawk AV-5 experienced a Class A mishap when it crashed in the United Arab Emirates during a mission in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle experienced a control malfunction during a landing sequence. At the time, the UAV was under the cognizance of the AAC. The event led to the temporary suspension of RQ-4 flight test activities at the Air Force Flight Test Center.

The US Air Force dispatched more than 600 fighters, bombers, tankers, airlifters, and intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance aircraft to Operation Iraqi Freedom. In the pack was one loner: the RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle. The Air Force deployed to the theater just one Global Hawk and flew it 18 days in a row to provide unblinking coverage of the Republican Guard and other key targets.  The performance of this aircraft over Iraq drew praise from all quarters and marked a significant step forward for long-range, high-altitude unmanned reconnaissance.  The 1991 Gulf War dramatized the possibilities of real-time imagery. The Desert Storm coalition acquired tremendous situation awareness from new assets such as E-8 Joint STARS aircraft, but there were gaps in ISR coverage of the battlespace. Commanders wanted a platform that would provide 24-hour coverage to support the hunt for Scuds and help keep track of Iraqi forces. That new requirement in 1991 led directly to the presence of Global Hawk in the skies over Iraq in 2003.  The Defense Science Board’s 1993 summer study called on the Pentagon to spur development of UAVs. This, it said, would help “fix the problems exposed in Desert Storm.” The DSB said the use of reconnaissance UAVs would help US forces gain wide-area coverage, acquire all-weather access to the battlespace, and integrate combat information.



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