A United States Air Force (USAF) RQ4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) will be used in New Zealand for the first time during Exercise Southern Katipo 2015, the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) largest military exercise.
The Combined Joint Task Force will use the Global Hawk to take imagery of simulated adversary areas of interest as part of the exercise. The RPAS will be operated remotely by USAF controllers with the NZDF advising parameters.
The Global Hawk has an endurance time of over 28 hours, so will travel from its station at Andersen, Air Force Base, Guam all the way to New Zealand, capture imagery and return home in one trip. It cruises at an altitude of 60,000 feet, twice that of a passenger aircraft.
The Global Hawk is an impressive capability that has provided assistance in humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions and security and stability operations worldwide. It has also been used in the United States domestically to identify wildfire hotspots.
Commander Joint Forces New Zealand Major General Tim Gall says the use of the Global Hawk is an invaluable opportunity for planning and interoperability training between the NZDF and USAF personnel.
“The Global Hawk is an asset to the exercise and will add to the airborne surveillance and reconnaissance capability that the Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion offers,” he said.
The Global Hawk model does not carry weaponry and its use in New Zealand will be in accordance with the New Zealand Search and Surveillance Act 2012. The owners of the land in the area have also given their permission for the imagery to be taken.
Exercise Southern Katipo will be held in the Buller, Tasman and Marlborough areas during October and November 2015. It involves more than 2,000 military personnel, as well as fixed wing aircraft, helicopters, ships, Light Armoured Vehicles (LAV), and other military vehicles and equipment. International participants include Australia, Canada, Fiji, French Forces of New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, the Kingdom of Tonga, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.