Test Signal Caused Spy Craft Crash

The following article was published in the "Las Vegas Sun", December 27, 1999. It was sent to us by Keith Watkins.

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- A test signal inadvertently received by the military's $45 million Global Hawk unmanned spy plane caused it to crash last March in the California desert, Air Force officials said Monday.

The high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft was at 41,000 feet when it went nose down in a rolling vertical dive and crashed 20 minutes after takeoff from Edwards Air Force Base.

The Global Hawk program is managed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton.

The Air Force accident investigation board said the plane flew so high that it lost the signal coming from Edwards and began receiving the next strongest signal -- one for flight termination from the test range at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

Maj. Kevin Baron said it was an unusual set of circumstances and no one was to blame. However, he said, the signal system is no longer being used.

The Global Hawk is the only high-altitude, long-endurance robot plane being considered for use by the military. There are unmanned reconnaissance aircraft in use that operate at lower altitudes.

Global Hawks are designed to fly as high as 65,000 feet for as long as 40 hours. The V-tailed aircraft has a 116-foot wingspan and is more than 44 feet long.

In battle, the plane would use radar and optical and infrared sensors to provide imagery of a battlefield area to a commander via satellite communications links.

Flight testing of the Global Hawk was suspended for six weeks following the crash. Testing was suspended again Dec. 6 after a Global Hawk was damaged when it veered off a runway at Edwards.

Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS, From "Las Vegas Sun", December 27, 1999

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