SAN DIEGO --
Today, Northrop Grumman Corporation celebrates the 20th anniversary of the first flight of its autonomous Global Hawk high altitude long endurance aircraft. The first Global Hawk aircraft, named Air Vehicle 1, or AV-1, was built by Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical at the Ryan factory near San Diego’s Lindberg Field. Northrop Grumman would acquire Teledyne Ryan in 1999.
On a clear and calm morning, Feb. 28, 1998, AV-1 taxied itself to its take-off position at Edwards Air Force Base. The aircraft was all white, except for its U.S. Air Force markings and sported a unicorn-like mast out of the front of its nose. Ryan pilot Mike Munski, in the ground control station nearby, clicked the take-off button on his control console and AV-1 took off into the desert sky. After a 56 minute flight, the first Global Hawk landed safely and stopped itself on the runway, just six inches off the painted centerline.
The first Global Hawk aircraft were in the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration program, sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DARPA is responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military.
The Global Hawk system is building on its heritage of innovation, modernizing its current capabilities by integrating new technologies that enhance capabilities, performance and reliability. In active operation with the U.S. Air Force since 2001, Global Hawk has amassed more than 250,000 flight hours with missions flown in support of military and humanitarian operations. Able to fly at high altitudes for greater than 30 hours, Global Hawk is designed to gather near-real-time, high-resolution imagery of large areas of land in all types of weather – day or night.