Global Hawk drones to be converted for hypersonic testing

U.S. Air Force photo

Four retired EQ-4 Block 20 Global Hawk UAVs should be repurposed to participate in the hypersonic testing of the United States Air Force over the Pacific Ocean, military sources told Grand Forks Herald.

The four aircraft are currently stored at Grand Forks Air Force Base in northeastern North Dakota where they carried out their final landing on July 29, 2021. Introduced in 2011, they carried out over 10,000 flight hours, according to the 319th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs.

The EQ-4 Global Hawk on its final flight at Grand Forks Air Force Base (U.S. Air Force photo)

They will reportedly be flown to Northrop Grumman’s Grand Sky facility to be converted. The manufacturer confirmed that it did receive the request for proposal. 

“Northrop Grumman has received a request for proposal to modify the Block 20 aircraft in support of a new government customer to accomplish a critical role that takes advantage of the inherent strengths of the Global Hawk family: range, endurance, altitude, autonomy and unmatched payload,” it said in a statement sent to Grand Forks Herald. “Northrop Grumman looks forward to responding to the RFP.”

The EQ-4B Battlefield Airborne Communication Network drone is a communication relay variant of the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk reconnaissance UAV. 

In November 2020, the USAF already announced the conversion of RQ-4 Global Hawks and MQ-9 Reapers for the same purpose, with a program called SkyRange. A fleet of unmanned aircraft was fitted with new sensor capabilities such as “telemetry, an airborne telescope to characterize vehicle surface conditions and a system to measure atmospheric conditions.”

Two hypersonic platforms are being developed by the United States Air Force, namely the ARRW (Air Launched Rapid Response Weapon) and the HAWC (Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept).


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