News | March 7, 2016

RPA unit welcomes Global Hawk operators

By Maj. Jessica D'Ambrosio 926th Wing Public Affairs

The 726th Operations Group gained a new mission and more than 50 reservists during an assimilation ceremony at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., on Feb. 10.

The 13th Reconnaissance Squadron was administratively realigned from under the 940th Operations Group at Beale AFB due to a mission change for that parent unit.

"I am extremely proud to welcome the 13th RS into the Griffin family," said Col. Brent, 726th OG commander. "Their addition expands the mission set of the 726th Operations Group from medium-altitude persistent Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance/Strike to include high-altitude, broad-spectrum ISR."

Through Total Force Integration, the squadron's members operate the RQ-4 Global Hawk, augmenting the mission of the Regular Air Force's 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale AFB.

"The members of the 13th RS are extremely talented and provide a high level of maturity and experience to the RQ-4 mission in the 9th Reconnaissance Wing," said Brent.

The remotely piloted aircraft operators provide joint combatant forces with near-real-time ISR data by employing high-altitude, long-endurance RPA and ground control elements.

The squadron supports Air Combat Command when performing peacetime and training missions, Central Command, Southern Command, Pacific Command, European Command and Africa Command during wartime, and Northern Command during disaster response.

"The Lucky Cats are excited to be a part of the 726 OG," said Lt. Col. Karyn, 13th RS commander. "We look forward to the synergies to be developed from being part of an all RPA group and a diverse wing, such as the 926th."

Personnel collect data using the Global Hawk system, which is made up of several components -- the high-altitude RQ-4 aircraft, a launch and recovery element, a mission control element, multiple intelligence sensors, communication equipment, mission planning equipment, and a support element.

The LRE, located with the aircraft, launches the aircraft until handoff to the MCE. The MCE can be remotely located and links to the aircraft via satellite. The MCE controls the Global Hawk for the bulk of the mission before returning it to the LRE for landing the aircraft.

Like the LRE, the MCE is manned by one pilot, but adds a sensor operator to the crew. The pilots' computer workstations in the MCE and LRE are the cockpit, providing aircraft health and status, sensors status and a means to alter the navigational track of the aircraft. From this station, the pilot communicates with outside entities such as air traffic controllers, airborne controllers and ground controllers.

The sensor operator uses their workstation to update the collection plan and monitor and calibrate the sensors. They also assist with image quality control, target deck prioritization and scene tracking to ensure fluid operations.

The 13th RS has a storied history dating back to 1942. Its personnel have participated in Operations ENDURING FREEDOM, IRAQI FREEDOM, NEW DAWN, RESTORE HOPE, TOMODACHI, ODYSSEY DAWN, UNIFIED PROTECTOR, DAMAYAN, FREEDOM'S SENTINEL and INHERENT RESOLVE. Additionally, the unit has conducted humanitarian operations during the California wildfires, Haiti earthquake, Japanese earthquake and tsunami and the Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.