MAJOR: US RQ-4A Global Hawk ISR Drone Caught Spying in Russia’s Northwest


MOSCOW – Air defense systems covering the northwestern part of Russia’s airspace recorded the first US ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) raid in 2020. The flight is especially controversial as it was conducted by a US strategic reconnaissance UAV, RQ-4A Global Hawk, near the Kaliningrad Region.

According to independent sources, the drone took off from Sigonella airbase on the Italian island of Sicily. The drone first flew over France and Germany and then proceeded towards the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda. From an altitude of about 16 kilometers, the drone spent 16 hours scanning the territory of three Russian Regions – Kaliningrad, Pskov and Leningrad – as well as the northwestern regions of Belarus.

The ISR drone kept a distance of 35-55 km away from Russia’s borders. The distance was manageable, as the US is quite confident in the capabilities of the Global Hawk, although Russia’s electronic warfare capabilities, especially in the Baltic region, are nothing short of impressive, even according to NATO.

The RQ-4A Global Hawk is a US strategic ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) UAV, capable of high-altitude flights, able to scan as far as 200 km, conduct reconnaissance of key targets and transmit information to the American command in real-time via a satellite link.

With a take-off weight of 15 tons and a wingspan of about 40 meters, Global Hawk is able to patrol the sky for 30 hours, climbing to an altitude of up to 18 thousand meters. When scanning large areas in the route-observation mode, carried out in a 10-km wide strip of land, the image resolution is about 1 meter.

Americans are stubbornly trying to use these drones for spy raids near Russia’s borders. The last time a Global Hawk was seen in the Baltic region was on December 30. During last year alone, the ISR drone was detected dozens of times near Crimea, the Russian airbase in Khmeimim and the Syrian port of Tartus, as well as off the coast of Russian Far East.

Global Hawk is often used together with the RC-135V electronic warfare and reconnaissance aircraft, as well as the P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine patrol aircraft. The latter was spotted earlier this week by Russian air defenses at an unspecified distance from Russian military facilities in Syria.

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