This is a photo of the Global Hawk UAV (UnmannedAerialVehicle) that recently returned from the war zone under its own power. (Iraq to Edward’s Air Force Base in California, USA) – Not transported onboard a C5 or C17.
Note the mission paintings on the fuselage…It’s actually over 250 missions!!! (And I would suppose 25 air medals as well.) That’s one hell of a lot of flying done by a remotely piloted aircraft.
Think of the technology as well as the required quality of the ‘Data Link’ to fly it remotely from a point thousands of miles away. Not only that, the Global Hawk is controlled via satellite and its control panel is in a nice, warm cabin at Edwards AFB, CA. It can stay airborne for almost 2 days at altitudes above 60,000 Feet!!!
It flew missions that went from Edwards AFB, CA, to the targets in Iraq and back non-stop!!! Basically, the Global Hawk enters the war zone at a high Mach # and fires its AMRAAMS, no one ever sees them and nor do they paint on a Radar Screen!!! There is practically no radio chatter because all the individuals involved with the flight are tied together electronically and at any point in time each of them can see who is doing what and all of them get real-time 360 Degree Situational Awareness Data inputs from AWACS (Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems) and other sensors. The enemy has a definite morale problem after a Global Hawk strike.
The Global Hawk is to Air Superiority what the Jet Engine was to Aviation. It can taxi out, take off, fly a mission, return, land and taxi back on its own. There are no blackouts, pilot fatigue, relief tubes, ejection seats, and best of all, no dead pilots, and no POWs.