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RQ-4 Global Hawk reaches historical milestone: 20k flight hours

An U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk logs over 20,000 flight hours Feb. 13, 2018 at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. The Global Hawk's mission is to provide a broad spectrum of ISR collection capability to support joint combatant forces in worldwide peacetime, contingency and wartime operations. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)

An U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk logs over 20,000 flight hours Feb. 13, 2018 at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. The Global Hawk's mission is to provide a broad spectrum of ISR collection capability to support joint combatant forces in worldwide peacetime, contingency and wartime operations. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Dakota McAfee and Senior Airman Christopher Asbury assigned to the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, RQ-4 avionics technicians, recovers an RQ-4 Global Hawk Feb. 13, 2018 at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. The Global Hawk has been deployed operationally to support overseas contingency operations since November 2001. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class D. Blake Browning)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Dakota McAfee and Senior Airman Christopher Asbury assigned to the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, RQ-4 avionics technicians, recovers an RQ-4 Global Hawk Feb. 13, 2018 at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. The Global Hawk has been deployed operationally to support overseas contingency operations since November 2001. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class D. Blake Browning)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Dakota McAfee assigned to the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, RQ-4 avionics specialist, recovers an RQ-4 Global Hawk Feb. 13, 2018 at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. The Global Hawk has been deployed operationally to support overseas contingency operations since November 2001. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class D. Blake Browning)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Dakota McAfee assigned to the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, RQ-4 avionics specialist, recovers an RQ-4 Global Hawk Feb. 13, 2018 at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. The Global Hawk has been deployed operationally to support overseas contingency operations since November 2001. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class D. Blake Browning)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Christian De Jesus Roman, 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, conducts post and preflight inspections on an RQ-4 Global Hawk Feb. 13, 2018 on Al Dhafra Air Base. The Global Hawk provides persistent near-real-time coverage using imagery intelligence (IMINT), signals intelligence (SIGINT) and moving target indicator (MTI) sensors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class D. Blake Browning)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Christian De Jesus Roman, 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, conducts post and preflight inspections on an RQ-4 Global Hawk Feb. 13, 2018 on Al Dhafra Air Base. The Global Hawk provides persistent near-real-time coverage using imagery intelligence (IMINT), signals intelligence (SIGINT) and moving target indicator (MTI) sensors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class D. Blake Browning)

An Airman from the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron tows an U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk into a hanger on Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates Feb. 13, 2018. The Global Hawk's mission is to provide a broad spectrum of ISR collection capability to support joint combatant forces in worldwide peacetime, contingency and wartime operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class D. Blake Browning)

An Airman from the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron tows an U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk into a hanger on Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates Feb. 13, 2018. The Global Hawk's mission is to provide a broad spectrum of ISR collection capability to support joint combatant forces in worldwide peacetime, contingency and wartime operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class D. Blake Browning)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Christian De Jesus Roman, 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, conducts post and preflight inspections on an RQ-4 Global Hawk Feb. 13, 2018 on Al Dhafra Air Base. The RQ-4 Global Hawk is a high-altitude, long-endurance, remotely piloted aircraft with an integrated sensor suite that provides global all-weather, day or night intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class D. Blake Browning)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Christian De Jesus Roman, 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, conducts post and preflight inspections on an RQ-4 Global Hawk Feb. 13, 2018 on Al Dhafra Air Base. The RQ-4 Global Hawk is a high-altitude, long-endurance, remotely piloted aircraft with an integrated sensor suite that provides global all-weather, day or night intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class D. Blake Browning)

An U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk logs over 20,000 flight hours Feb. 13, 2018 at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. The Global Hawk's mission is to provide a broad spectrum of ISR collection capability to support joint combatant forces in worldwide peacetime, contingency and wartime operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class D. Blake Browning)

An U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk logs over 20,000 flight hours Feb. 13, 2018 at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. The Global Hawk's mission is to provide a broad spectrum of ISR collection capability to support joint combatant forces in worldwide peacetime, contingency and wartime operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class D. Blake Browning)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Dakota McAfee assigned to the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, RQ-4 avionics technician, recovers an RQ-4 Global Hawk Feb. 13, 2018 at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. The Global Hawk has been deployed operationally to support overseas contingency operations since November 2001. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Dakota McAfee assigned to the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, RQ-4 avionics technician, recovers an RQ-4 Global Hawk Feb. 13, 2018 at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. The Global Hawk has been deployed operationally to support overseas contingency operations since November 2001. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)

AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates -- A significant milestone occurred for the aviation community on Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates this week, when an RQ-4 Global Hawk reached 20,000 Flight Hours on Feb. 13, 2018.

“This milestone was the original lifespan of the aircraft,” said Senior Master Sgt. Matthew Pipes, Hawk Aircraft Maintenance Superintendent deployed to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing. “It’s exciting to see where this technology and this aircraft can take off too and how it can help those who are downrange.”

The aircraft that reached this milestone is an EQ-4 equipped with a Battlefield Communications Airfield Node Payload. The EQ-4 aircraft can be flown for more than 24 hours depending on mission requirements. Rotating pilots and allowing for their proper crew rest is one benefit of this aircraft.

Major Manuel Ochoa, U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk pilot from the 99th Air Expeditionary Recon Squadron stationed at Al Dhafra Air Base, also played a big part in having the aircraft touch down for it’s 20,000th hour.

“From being a manned aircraft pilot, getting 12-hours in the air was a long day…you needed a day or so to recover before going up on your next mission,” said Ochoa. “When it comes to this plane, you can cycle pilots without having to land and that is a great benefit.”

The aircraft landed shortly before noon and was greeted by a crowd of people who wanted to see and be a part of the impressive 20,000th hour.

“I am very honored to be a part of this legacy and to see it meet such a huge milestone,” said SMSgt Pipes. “The sky is really the limit and I am excited to see where this can take off too. This aircraft can fly around the clock and now we are looking forward to see it reach 40,000 hours.”

Between the safety officers, to the pilots, to the maintainers and contractors, it took a great amount of teamwork to get the aircraft to reach this groundbreaking number in flight hours.

“It is called an unmanned aircraft, but there is a large number of contractors, active duty personnel and maintainers that keep this aircraft going,” said Ochoa. “We do have a hand in the fight and I am very honored to be apart of this legacy, to have it meet a huge milestone.”

According to Ochoa, similar aircrafts are trailing behind it with approximately half the number of flight hours.

“It’s exciting to see where this will go and where the next 20,000 hours will take us,” said SMSgt Pipes.