GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Pilots and sensor operators from 348th Reconnaissance Squadron provided RQ-4 Global Hawk support to II Marine Expeditionary Force’s 2nd Intelligence Battalion’s field exercise February 2021, held at Bouge, North Carolina.
“As tactical warfighters, the MEF leverages the joint force and national capabilities to augment and extend its long range intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance,” said U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Eric Sjoberg, G-2 operations officer. “Leveraging the capabilities of assets like the RQ-4 are absolutely essential for us to create the understanding of the operational environment we need to make informed decisions.”
The remotely piloted RQ-4 was able to provide long range, high endurance and all-weather sensing capabilities which doesn’t exist in the Marine Corps arsenal. Using the RQ-4 Block 40’s common data link, the Marines on the ground were able to receive the data it collected in a communications denied or degraded environment.
“This combination gives us a capability we need to be a credible force in today’s age of great power competition,” said Sjoberg.
The exercise proved valuable for both Marine and Air Force operators as they worked through trouble-shooting the connection between systems in a realistic combat training environment. The Marines diagnosed a hardware failure which they otherwise would not have been able to find and were able to pull data from the aircraft using an alternate means. Meanwhile, the Grand Forks team accomplished a successful launch of the RQ-4 during arctic conditions with a wind chill 31 degrees below zero.
"Tailored joint engagements like this help the Global Hawk team refine our mission planning process, develop our aircrews, and continue to normalize unmanned operations within the National Airspace System,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Brandon Cieloha, commander of the 348th Reconnaissance Squadron. “The Block 40 is an inherently joint platform that feeds into joint command and control constructs, and we take pride in delivering timely data to decision makers at every level."
Both Marine and Air Force commanders agree this is just the beginning, more testing events are scheduled through April to further enhance joint partnership capabilities.