The last few days, I have been reading some interesting articles on what we now call UAVs, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. And from what I have read reinforces my belief that there is very little truly “new” under the sun.
Most inventions, considered radical departures from the norm in society have had the stepping-stones from others, sometimes years ago, sometimes decades.
But to go into all this history, with a little post about our second visit to Beale, would tend to tell you a lot about everything and nothing specific about anything.
So maybe that will be for another post.
As a late friend would admonish me – focus.
A year or 2 after our visit to learn about the U2, we received another invitation to learn about the Global Hawk. Before this visit the only UAV I had heard of was the well-publicized Predator.
As I soon learned, there are UAVs for very specific purposes. While the Predator is capable of carrying missiles, the Global Hawk’s mission is strictly recon.
Anytime whenever I have had an invitation to see/learn about anything aviation-related, count me in.
While we didn’t go to the control room, we got a nice tour, including the area where the pilots “suit up” for the U2, (and previously the SR-71).
Join me for a vicarious tour.
Some facts about the Global Hawk. I don’t how much of this is applicable to its Navy variant.
In 2001, it was still under development by Northrop-Grumman, but rushed into production after 9-11.
Cruising altitude – 65,000 feet.
Cruise Speed – 341 kts (391 MPH). Time aloft without refueling – 36 hours. Do the math 😉
It’s flight – anywhere in the world – is controlled from Beale.
Its mission is programmed on the ground. It takes off – and lands – automatically and right down the centerline.
It’s engine is also used in a Cessna Citation jet. (30 years ago I worked for Cessna in Wichita when the Citation lineup was a lot simpler. Don’t ask me which Citation Jet today 😉 )
Landing gear is borrowed from the F-16.
Wingspan – 130 feet.
At the time of our lecture, we were told that the FAA still didn’t know how to integrate large unmanned drones into the controlled airspace (which I think is still the case, and could be the subject of another article by itself!). So Beale gives a notice to airmen (NOTAM) advising them that a Global Hawk will be taking off – or landing.
We also learned a bit more about the U2 – I was interested to learn that there is a civilian life-support specialist – who worked at his desk right by the legendary Kelly Johnson, still under contract.
So join me for a vicarious tour around the base – with additional commentary by your tour guide!
At the start of the tour, we received a comprehensive lecture. My thanks to the Airman who gave this – in the interest of some privacy I’ll leave out the name(s) but you know who you are 😉
We headed out to a hanger that housed a Global Hawk – my impression of it was that it looked like a large flying Beluga Whale .
Just in case you don’t know where you are!
…your tour guide (about 20 lbs heavier)
…Lest you forget Beale has other inhabitants!
(and formerly SR-71 drivers) suited up
..This is the outside (and controls) of a altitude chamber – demonstrating Hypoxia (oxygen starvation to the brain) – what Lex wrote about .
Where U2 Pilots suit up, with a reminder of their other famous plane – now retired…
What the U2 pilots wear today…
…and no visit would be complete without a visit to Beale’s other famous inhabitant!
I hope that you enjoyed the tour and I hope that Lex, wherever he is, enjoyed it too.