Who could have thought that Global Hawk has turned 15? He’s a teenager right now and looks forward to become a grown up.
I remember when I first saw it – its front section looked like some sort of a monster from sci-fi movies which I was a great fan (and still am). Fifteen years ago it had to be a breakthrough – it could fly very high for a very long time. It wasn’t as good as U-2 as they still fly and do their job but it was and certainly is a game changer. Not only Global Hawk but the whole bunch of other machines which followed him, which are right now in Phantom Works, Skunk Works and other facilities and are just shaped on the drawing boards (well today we should write on the LCD’s).
We can safely assume that soon UAV’s will start from aircraft carriers as a regular component and at some point will refuel other aircraft serving as a “self service” gas station hanging for days in the air. It may sound like a sci-fi scenario but we are very close. Think how many problems for the Navy would have been solved if a UAV cold serve as a gas station? How many F-18 aircraft could be used for other duties which could allow a more effective aircraft carrier group usage? Flying as refueling aircraft is a big strain for the F-18 – 5 tanks is a heavy weight cargo and blocks other dutes for this specific machine.
The next generation which will probably at some point replace Global Hawks will be as good as U-2 or probably even better. A whole net of aircraft like this all connected and inter operable hanging above for days gives you the power of information which is crucial for today’s army – without the intelligence information’s it can’t show it’s full strength and abilities. At some point the level of automation will allow them to refuel itself in the air without the human factor. But… this is still the future – we will see the direction we are heading when the teenager will become 30.
As always let’s look at the whole thing from a Polish perspective. Global-Hawk like machines could solve many of our “eyes” problems. Buying big aircraft like AWACS doesn’t have much sens for Poland but UAV’s could be a game changer. Our own intelligence from self operated machines without the need to ask NATO allies for opened slots for our purposes.
Photo: Northrop Grumman