San Diego Union-Tribune

November 3, 2001

2 new planes to help find bombing targets on Afghanistan front


WASHINGTON -- The U.S. military's search for bombing targets in Afghanistan will get a substantial boost with the deployment of Global Hawk unmanned spy planes and Joint STARS ground surveillance jets, the Pentagon said yesterday.

Although Global Hawk is in the development and test stage, it is being deployed to Europe to conduct missions over Afghanistan, Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem said.

That was the first Pentagon confirmation of rumors that the SanDiego-developed unmanned aerial vehicle would be used in the war on terrorism. The deployment orders apparently affect three of the four aircraft the Air Force has received.

The high-flying, long-endurance UAV will allow extended "eyes on the enemy" to help find targets for U.S. airstrikes, Stufflebeem said.

Stufflebeem would not specify what sensors the Global Hawks will carry, but said, "it does have an all-weather capability . . . and we'll certainly take advantage of that. It also has sensors that will be terrific when it's bright and shiny."

Global Hawk, a single-engine jet the size of a small airliner, can carry a sophisticated radar that can see through clouds. It also can have cameras capable of detailed images in daylight and infrared sensors that work well at night.

It can stay aloft for more than 30 hours and fly above 60,000 feet, well out of reach of anti-aircraft missiles.

Stufflebeem said finding targets can depend on "how long are you able to stare at things." And few other aircraft can stay up as long as the Global Hawk, he said.

Global Hawk was developed by Northrop Grumman's Ryan Aeronautical unit in San Diego. It will augment the Predator, a smaller UAV built by General Atomics in Rancho Bernardo, which has been operating over Afghanistan for weeks.

The Joint STARS aircraft engaged in a similar form of testing during the Persian Gulf War in 1991. The modified 707 jetliner has sophisticated radar and other sensors that allow its 21 crew members to detect and track moving vehicles from nearly 100 miles away.

That will allow the four-engine jets to fly long patrols well outside the reach of Taliban anti-aircraft weapons while looking for targets. The combat controllers on board then can give precise directions to fighters going on the attack.

Stufflebeem has noted a number of times in recent briefings that the air attacks on the Taliban troops have been hampered by a lack of good target information. Use of the two new surveillance aircraft will help solve that problem, he said.