Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) UAV has gone from a developmental platform to the next generation of American aerial reconnaissance. Flying at 60,000 feet, the RQ-4’s use their advanced synthetic aperture radar and other sensors to provide high-resolution images, unaffected by clouds or similar impediments. A larger RQ-4B model has been developed, and forms the backbone of current deliveries.
The transatlantic Euro Hawk project aimed to produce an RQ-4B with additional capabilities in signals intelligence collection (SIGINT), to complement its native ground surveillance capabilities. The 4-5 UAVs would provide the ability to detect and collect information from electronic intelligence (ELINT) radar emitters and communications emitters, and would be connected to ground stations that can receive and analyze the data. An MoU was signed in May 2006, followed by a firm system development contract on Jan 31/07. The Euro Hawk flew, and was performing on a technical level, but regulatory barriers killed the program in May 2013.