Warplanes: May 22, 2001


The US Air Force has produced a long range reconnaissance drone that is undergoing tests in the Pacific. In late April, the Global Hawk made the first Pacific crossing by an unmanned aircraft. The 14,000 kilometer trip was made at 65,000 feet, to keep the robot aircraft away from commercial traffic. Ground controllers monitored the trip, but allowed the aircraft's computer to do the flying and navigating. The Global Hawk arrived in Australia 14 minutes ahead of schedule. With a full load of fuel (60 percent of aircraft weight) the 12.5 ton Global Hawk can either stay in the air for over 18 hours. The Global Hawk will undergo additional testing in Australia until early June. Carrying radar and other sensors, the Global Hawk is designed to fly over hostile areas for long periods. Smaller than a manned aircraft with the same capabilities, the Global Hawk can stay in the air longer because it lacks a crew, and causes fewer political problems if it is shot down. Flying recon aircraft has long been one of the more dangerous jobs a military pilot can face. 


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