Home Air US Air Force base Beale retires final RQ-4 Global Hawk

US Air Force base Beale retires final RQ-4 Global Hawk

Global Hawk divestment USAF
Airmen conduct preflight procedures on an RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 July 7, 2022, at Beale Air Force Base California. Photo: US Air Force

The US Air Force base Beale bid farewell to its final RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft in July, marking the end of 18 years of operations with the platform.

The final RQ-4 Global Hawk assigned to the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron departed on July 7, and was divested from the US Air Force as part of a plan to restructure intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to meet national defense priorities and support joint all-domain command and control capabilities.

The first of the Block 30 Global Hawks were retired at Grand Forks AFB in June this year.

“We must transform our force today to the Air Force we need tomorrow,” said Gen. C.Q. Brown, Jr., Air Force Chief of Staff. “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.”

Block 30’s from geographically separated units such as Beale AFB, Sigonella Air Station, and Anderson AFB are returning to the 319th Reconnaissance Wing in Grand Forks N.D. They will be transferred over to Northrup Grumman to 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.

“The RQ-4 mission at Beale AFB has come to an end, and the 12th RS guide on will be folded perhaps by the end of this year,” said Lt. Col. Michael, 4th Reconnaissance Squadron Deputy. “Our personnel now have new opportunities across the Air Force.

The capabilities of the RQ-4 are far reaching, and the aircraft are engineered to be high-altitude, long-endurance, and equipped with integrated sensor suites to provide all-weather, day or night Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance.

At any given time, approximately 450 Airmen made the Block 30 mission possible from the 319th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, the logistical support given by the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, and from technical support agencies such as Northrup Grumman.

“The RQ-4 mission would not have been successful without the support from the men and women of the 69 RG from 2010-2019, to today’s 9th RW and the local community,” Michael said. “While this program may be at its sunset, we will always be grateful for our Recce Town family.”

While the Block 30 aircraft are set to retire in quick succession, the air force plans to continue flying RQ-4 Block 40 aircraft through the late 2020s.