Global Hawk crashes near Grand Forks AFB

While returning to Grand Forks Air Force Base (AFB) in North Dakota on August 6, a US Air Force (USAF) Northrop Grumman RQ-4B Block 40 Global Hawk crashed at approximately 0700hrs Central Standard Time in a rural field near Gilby, North Dakota, on the 2700 block of 27th Avenue Northeast, about four miles north of the airfield. No injuries were reported on the ground.

Grand Forks RQ-4B at Edwards
An RQ-4B Global Hawk Block 40 from Grand Forks AFB in a hangar at Edwards AFB, California, on August 18, 2014, while on loan to the 412th Test Wing's Global Vigilance Combined Test Force for trials USAF/Jennifer Romo

The ensuing ground fire was extinguished and the incident is under investigation with recovery operations underway. Col Jeremy Fields, 319th Reconnaissance Wing vice commander, said: “319th Reconnaissance Wing has personnel on site and we anticipate recovery operations and the official investigation may take several weeks. I’d like to personally thank local law enforcement, Customs and Border Protection and emergency services for their support on scene.”

The aircraft was operated by the 319th Reconnaissance Wing’s 348th Reconnaissance Squadron ‘Northern Hawks’ at Grand Forks. The Block 40 is the latest variant of the Global Hawk, with just 12 of this version having been delivered. One had previously been lost, when it crashed into the sea off Spain on June 26, 2018. The USAF also has 20 older model Black 30 Global Hawks in service, which are all slated for retirement in the fiscal year 2021 budget request, although this has yet to be approved.