11 July 022. Engine failure apparently caused the crash of an
unmanned U.S. Air Force “Global Hawk” spyplane in Pakistan on Wednesday on a mission supporting American forces in Afghanistan, defense officials said on Thursday.
The officials, who asked not to be identified, said the second crash of a high-flying RQ-4A Global Hawk in the nine-month Afghan war was under
investigation but was not caused by hostile fire.
The big remote-controlled drones, under development by Northrop Grumman Corp. (NYSE:NOC – News) and costing more than $50 million each, are powered by a single jet engine.
A brief Pentagon announcement on Wednesday did not say where the long-range aircraft crashed, but reported that it went down at approximately noon EDT (1600 GMT).
The Global Hawk, capable of flying thousands of miles at altitudes up to 65,000 feet (20,000 metres) and circling over target areas for more than 24 hours, is equipped with high-resolution cameras, radar and other sensors to gather intelligence. It is the most sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicle being used by the U.S. military to gather and quickly transmit intelligence on al Qaeda and the Taliban in the war.
The Pentagon has declined to comment on reports that the craft, with a wingspan of 116 feet (35 metres), might one day be armed with missiles.
Several missiles have already been fired from smaller U.S. “Predator” unmanned spy drones operated by the Central Intelligence Agency over Afghanistan.
Comment: Sources suggest that an engine upgrade is one of the considerations for a major investment in the Global Hawk program following its deployment in Afghanistan. Other changes are airframe and sensor related.