Military UAV breaks flight time record

MQ-9 Reaper armed UAV

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MQ-9 Reaper armed UAV
MQ-9 Reaper armed UAV

The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper and variants of the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) recently achieved flight-time milestones, their manufacturers announced.

According to AIN Online, General Atomics said an MQ-9 Reaper reached 20,000 total flight hours during a 17-hour mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan on December 23. This is the highest flight time logged by a single MQ-9, or Predator B.

This particular record-setting aircraft flew for the first time on Jan. 31, 2008 (sic), and had accumulated 1,355 flights, nearly all in support of U.S. overseas contingency operations.

Northrop Grumman announced on January 7 that U.S. Air Force, Navy and NASA Global Hawk variants flew 781 hours from September 10 to 16, surpassing the company’s previous weekly flight record of 665 hours set last February. Air Force RQ-4s flew 87 percent of the missions; the Navy’s broad area maritime surveillance-demonstration (BAMS-D) and NASA’s hurricane research aircraft flew the balance.

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“There are at least two Global Hawks in the air at all times providing indispensable intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance information to those that need it,” said Mick Jaggers, Northrop Grumman’s program director. Jaggers said Fiscal Year 2014 “was the most active yet for the Global Hawk,” with a 40 percent year-over-year increase in flight hours.

RQ-4 Global Hawk
RQ-4 Global Hawk

Northrop Grumman said it delivered two new Global Hawks to the Air Force within weeks of setting the record: a wide area surveillance Block 40 model arrived at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., on September 10, and a “multi-intelligence” Block 30 model arrived at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., on October 3.

The latest RQ-4 deliveries completed a four-aircraft procurement by the Air Force, bringing its Global Hawk fleet to 33 aircraft. The Air Force ordered three more Global Hawks in August. Those aircraft are scheduled for delivery in 2016 and 2017, Northrop Grumman said.