By Stewart Bailey, curator
In the midst of one of the coldest winter spells that Oregon has seen in a while, the Museum moved its newest acquisition, which was most warmly received. The new artifact was a mock-up of the Northrop-Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk reconnaissance UAV.
The Global Hawk is one of the most sophisticated tools available to military planners in the current war on terrorism, and operates regularly over Iraq and Afghanistan. Similar in mission to the U-2 spy plane, the Global Hawk has the ability to stay in the air for more than 36 hours and can survey up to 40,000 square miles in a day. It is equipped with Synthetic Aperture Radar that allows it to see through clouds and sand storms as well as infra-red (heat) and optical sensors that can send data back via a satellite link for immediate review by commanders on the ground and back in the U.S. What makes it unique is that it does not have a pilot on board, but rather is directed half way around the world from its home base in northern California. Like its famous predecessors, the U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird, the RQ-4 is operated by the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base near Sacramento.
Although most people tend to think of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) as small, the Global Hawk is a real “monster.” Forty-four feet in length and having a 116 foot wingspan, it is wider than the horizontal stabilizer of the Spruce Goose! It cruises at more than 400 miles per hour and can hit a ceiling of 65,000 feet, all while carrying a ton of surveillance equipment. With size and performance like this, the Global Hawk is certainly not an ordinary radio-controlled airplane.
The mock-up that the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum acquired was built for and donated by the Northrop-Grumman Corporation. It was originally used to show off the design to the U.S. Air Force and ended up being put on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force (NMUSAF) in Dayton, Ohio. After NMUSAF received an actual RQ-4 from the Air Force, they returned the mock-up to Northrop-Grumman, who in turn gave it to Evergreen. Stored in a warehouse in Columbus, Mississippi, a crew from Evergreen went down to pick it up during the first week of December. Utilizing a truck and driver from the Evergreen EAGLE division, the mock-up made the cross-country trip in five days and was off-loaded at the Museum on Thursday, December 10. It will now receive some TLC from the Museum’s restoration crew, before it is re-assembled and hung in the Aviation Museum building for all to enjoy.