Touchdown! Reach of the Global Hawk

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Avalon is touched down at by the Global Hawk. Picture: Daniel Frawley

It touched down with a grace.

The aircraft, with a wingspan more than a Boeing 737 departed the US base on Guam, at the northern Pacific, also flew nonstop for 5,700 kilometres, arriving at Avalon at 3.30pm.

Global Hawk isn’t a stranger to Australia. One aircraft visited Avalon at 2015 but arrived late at night. Others staged in the war on terror on path over Afghanistan early Australia.

Global Hawk is the parent to Triton that Australia is buying to carry out surveillance out in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Global Hawk

The team on site at Avalon give an Concept of the scale of the Global Hawk. Picture: Peter Chrismas

Global Hawk was developed by Ryan Aeronautical, now a part of Northrop Grumman, to fulfill a US Air Force demand for region overland surveillance, akin to the job.

The aircraft’s capacity to fly distances was demonstrated in April 2001 with a flight from Edwards USAF foundation to RAAF Edinburgh, covering 13,219 kilometres in 22 hours.

That was the very first pilotless aircraft to cross the Pacific along with a world record for complete distance flown by a UAV and this impressive capability piqued Australia’s interest in an unmanned aircraft able to conduct wide area maritime surveillance (BAMS).

So did the US Navy and a “navalised” Global Hawk won the US Navy BAMS competition against contenders.

Triton and global Hawk perform tasks that are different but seem similar. They can easily be told apart — Global Hawk is run by the US Air Force and is painted all grey while Triton is flown by the US Navy and is white on top and grey.