GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --
The RQ-4 Global Hawk, a high-altitude, long-endurance, remotely piloted aircraft with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, is one of the most important technological assets here.
The aircraft, used heavily by the Department of Defense to provide a broad spectrum of ISR collection capability to support joint combatant forces in worldwide peacetime, contingency and wartime operations, relies on the maintenance provided by Airmen in the 319th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.
“It’s a proud feeling knowing our Airmen are directly responsible for ensuring the success of an aircraft’s takeoff and recovery,” said Senior Master Sgt. Nathan Bouchard, 319th Aircraft Maintenance Unit superintendent. “These guys are out here day and night, year-round, through all sorts of inclement weather conditions in order to get the job done.”
Within the 319 AMXS are a variety of jobs, each playing a particular role in getting a Global Hawk into the air, but crew chiefs and avionics specialists work up-close with the aircraft to assist with launch and recovery, diagnose and solve maintenance issues, and perform pre-, thru- and post flight inspections.
“My favorite part of the job is the sense of accomplishment in knowing by the end of the day, our work is what keeps the Global Hawk flying,” said Senior Airman D’Angelo Perkins, crew chief assigned to the 319 AMXS. “It’s a huge team effort that takes a lot of problem-solving skills and communication.”
The Global Hawk has been deployed operationally to support overseas contingency operations since November 2001, and has made huge strides since its introduction to the U.S. Air Force fleet: in 2014, an RQ-4 Block 40 flew for 34.3 hours, setting the endurance record for longest unrefueled flight.
“The aircraft is pretty impressive,” Perkins said. “The fact that so many people rely on its capabilities is sometimes intimidating, but it’s also a motivating factor that keeps us working hard.”