Giant Spy Drone Cruised Right Over Top of Commercial Airliners
Global Hawk was on a mission to prove it could use civilian air space
A U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk spy drone flew from Italy to Norway during NATO’s recent Unified Vision 2014 exercise. It was the first time one of the airliner-size RQ-4s had crossed busy commercial air space in order to perform a military mission.
The radar-equipped remotely-piloted vehicle flew from its home base in southeastern Sicily—from where Global Hawks daily conduct missions over Africa—across Europe to Norway. The goal was to demonstrate the capability of NATO’s evolving Alliance Ground Surveillance system to route an unmanned aerial vehicle through European territory.
The Atlantic alliance’s AGS consortium is acquiring five Global Hawks of its own to spot ground targets during future conflicts.
The Global Hawk cruised to Norway at more than 50,000 feet, well above the normal flying altitude of commercial airliners. The drone flight tested the effectiveness of existing air-traffic-control procedures to ensure seamless integration of high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles within the existing aviation framework.
During the drill, the RQ-4 crossed U.K. air space—a first for the type.
Unified Vision 2014, which ran from May 19 to 29, included 2,000 people from 18 NATO states and three partner nations. That’s triple the size of the previous Unified Vision in 2012.
What made the exercise particularly useful was its realism. NATO turned on it surface-to-air missile systems and activated GPS jamming in order to challenge the Global Hawk’s flight.