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article imageThe Global Hawk drone downed by Iran was made by Northrop Grumman

By Ken Hanly     Jun 21, 2019 in Technology
Last Thursday Iran shot down a US RQ-4 Global Hawk drone that it claimed was on a spy mission over its territory. The US, on the other hand, claimed the drone was in international air space and subject to an unprovoked attack.
The RQ-4 Global Hawk
Whatever the facts about the downing, the drone involved is used for intelligence-gathering over both water and coastal areas. It costs around $130 million per drone according to industry experts.
The drone is designed to capture near real-time, high-resolution images. It can do so in all kinds of weather in either the day or night time.
Specifics of the Global Hawk
The RQ-4 Global Hawk is considered to be one of the most sophisticated drones used by the US military. The Hawk is designed to fly at altitudes as highs as 60,000 feet or 18 km. In contrast, most commercial planes fly at altitudes ranging from 31,000 to 38,000 feet or 9 to 11 km.
The drone can stay in the air up to 32 hours and has a range of 22,780 km. The drone is 44 feet (13 meters) long and has a wingspan of 116 feet (35 meters). It weighs 25,600 pounds (12 tonnes). It is comparable in size to a small business jet.
First flight
The Hawk made its first flight back in February of 2008. Since the drones have logged more than 250,000 flight hours. This includes operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, North Africa and also the Asia-Pacific region.
Both US Air Force and US Navy have bought the Hawks
In the early 2000s both forces began to buy the drones. In 2004 the Navy claimed that the Air Force had bought four of the drones at a cost of around $360 million back then. A 2013 news release by Northrop Grumman claimed that the company had delivered 37 Global Hawks to the Air Force.
More recently the Navy has been purchasing the somewhat larger MQ-4C Triton. The Triton has a 130 foot (40 meter) wingspan slightly more than the Global Hawk. In March the Navy requested two of the Tritons and budgeted $473 million for them and associated equipment.
Northrop Grumman
Wikipedia describes Northrop Grumman as follows: "Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) is an American global aerospace and defense technology company formed by Northrop's 1994 purchase of Grumman. The company reported revenues in excess of $30 billion in 2018 and was the fourth-largest arms trader in the world in 2017 with about 84% of all revenue coming from defense related activities.[4][5][6][2] Northrop Grumman is made up of four main business sectors: Aerospace Systems, Mission Systems, Technology Services and Innovation Systems. The corporate headquarters is located in West Falls Church, Virginia. Northrop Grumman ranks number 118 on the 2018 Fortune 500 list of America's largest corporations."
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