Home Air US Air Force retires first RQ-4 Block 30 Global Hawks

US Air Force retires first RQ-4 Block 30 Global Hawks

Global Hawk retirement
Airmen perform a maintenance check June 6, 2022, on an RQ-4 Block 30 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft at Grand Sky on Grand Forks Air Force Base. Photo: US Air Force

Airmen of the US Air Force’s 319th Reconnaissance Wing divested five RQ-4 Block 30 Global Hawks by transferring them across the runway to civilian partners at Grand Sky earlier this month.

The 319th RW will divest a total of 20 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft, and they should be transferred to Northrop Grumman at Grand Sky by the end of July.

They will be outfitted with different sensor technology before beginning their new careers as part of the Test Resource Management Center’s High Speed System Test department.

This will be quite a pivot for the Global Hawk, which traditionally ‘looked down’ from nearly 60,000 feet while loitering more than 12 hours on station at locations across the globe.

“There’s no way to count how many American and allied lives this specific sensor payload saved between the enhanced integrated sensor suite and airborne signals intelligence,” said Col. Timothy Curry, commander of the 319th RW. “Putting those capabilities in the hands of our Airmen created near real-time intelligence for warfighters, decision-makers and command centers.”

The Block 30 divestment is part of the Air Force’s plan to restructure intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to meet national defense priorities and support joint all-domain command and control capabilities. The divestment also assists in funding modernization and increases capability to counter threats posed by peer competitors like China and Russia.

“We must transform our force today to the Air Force we need tomorrow,” said Gen. C.Q. Brown, Jr., Air Force chief of staff, in the divestment execution memo. “The divestment of this weapons system was a tough but necessary resourcing choice we had to make in order to begin realizing a budgeted savings of over two billion dollars.”

The Air Force plans to budget for construction and renovation projects to occur during 2023-2026 to support future 319th RW missions.

As these new missions take shape, Grand Forks’ 319th RW will continue to operate RQ-4 Block 40 aircraft through the late 2020s.