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Touchdown! Long reach of the Global Hawk

written by WOFA | March 1, 2019

Global Hawk
The Global Hawk touches down at Avalon. Picture: Daniel Frawley

It touched down with a quiet grace – the first time ever a Northrop Grumman Global Hawk unmanned aircraft has landed during an airshow.

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

Global Hawk is no stranger to Australia. One aircraft visited Avalon in 2015 but arrived late at night. Others staged through Australia on route to surveillance missions over Afghanistan early in the war on terror.

Global Hawk is the parent to Triton which Australia is buying to perform high-altitude long-range surveillance out into the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

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

Global Hawk was developed by Ryan Aeronautical, now part of Northrop Grumman, to meet a US Air Force requirement for broad area overland surveillance, akin to the job done by the Lockheed U-2.

The first Global Hawk flew in February 1998. The aircraft’s ability to fly intercontinental distances was amply demonstrated in April 2001 with a nonstop flight from Edwards USAF base to RAAF Edinburgh, covering 13,219 kilometres in 22 hours.

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


So too did the US Navy and in 2008, a “navalised” Global Hawk won the US Navy BAMS contest against contenders from Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

Global Hawk and Triton perform different jobs but look similar. They can easily be told apart – Global Hawk is operated 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 on lower surfaces.


  • Interestingly the RAAF have now taken delivery of 7 of the P8A Poseidon Maritime Surveillance Aircraft,(airframes A47-001 to 007), with two further Aircraft A47-009 and 010 still to be delivered. Interestingly though Airframe A47-008, is currently stored at Boeing , although it is shown as being delivered to the RAAF with production completed over one year ago on 28th Feb 2018. Anyone know why this aircraft is Stored and not delivered to the RAAF. Is it because of budget constraints?

  • Andrew Ferguson


    Another very interesting fact that I have just noticed is that it was rumoured a year or so ago that Boeing actually had produced another Boeing c-17B that had not got a final customer (this was the last one produced). Well that aircraft MSN Number Boeing/C-17-Globemaster-III/N272ZD-Boeing/JW5OS6A does exist and it is stored at Boeing, awaiting any potential AirForce seeking a final aircraft.

    What a good idea for our Defence budget to boost the overworked C-17 Globemaster III in use with the RAAF.

  • Gary


    Andrew – N272ZD was sold to India 29 Jun 17.

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