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Test squadron 'drives' Global Hawk for Air Force

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Julius Delos Reyes
  • 95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Testing and evaluating a vehicle prior to purchasing ensures it is up to par with the advertised specifications. This guarantees the customers are buying the real deal. 

For the Air Force's Global Hawk system, the 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron here test drives the unmanned aerial vehicle on behalf of the warfighters. 

Squadron personnel evaluate the operational effectiveness and suitability of advanced Air Combat Command weapon systems, one of which is the Global Hawk. 

According to Tech. Sgt. Joe Gambles, 31st TES Global Hawk test and evaluator, they bring the maintainer's perspective to the table. 

"As a maintainer, we can say whether or not  this might be suitable for testing or  recommend improvements," Sergeant Gambles said.

Another unseen part of the Global Hawk system is the ground station, which also needs test driving. This is the control center where the "pilot" sits, receiving, processing and transmitting imagery. The 31st TES Global Hawk ground segment suitability evaluation team ensures it does its job. 

"We look at the communication systems, including the antennas, transmitters and receivers," said Tech. Sgt. Paul Lockwood, ground segment suitability evaluation noncommissioned officer in charge. "We keep the ground station in top shape. If the ground station is not functioning, the airplane doesn't fly. We have to make sure the communication links are at the best quality and the computers are up and running." 

Since Global Hawk is a UAV, there can be a "disconnect" in informing the maintainers if there is something wrong with the aircraft. 

"The pilots maintain a log of anything abnormal that happens during the flight," Sergeant Lockwood said. "They will determine what is wrong with the aircraft and relay the information to the maintainers." 

Master Sgt. Ching Foster, 31st TES Global Hawk suitability superintendent, said working on a UAV's test environment is a big change from his operational experience. 

"In the operational world, our ground segment personnel are separated from maintainers," Sergeant Foster said. "This is a very new experience for us. We work together in the test environment. It is a great opportunity to learn from one another about the various aspects of each other's career." 

The 31st TES works as a Combined Test Force with Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center, 452nd Flight Test Squadron, Northrop Grumman and other test agencies.