Beale: The maintenance depot for the USAF's Global Hawks
By Airman 1st Class Ramon A. Adelan, 9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 03, 2015
BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, California --
Airmen at Beale Air Force Base, California, work around the clock to ensure the U.S. Air Force's fleet of RQ-4 Global Hawks are prepared to support mission objectives.
The RQ-4's mission is to provide a broad spectrum of high-altitude intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance collection capability to support joint combatant forces in peacetime, contingency and wartime operations worldwide. The Global Hawk provides near-real-time coverage using a variety of sensors.
"Beale has been established as the unofficial depot for the Global Hawk program," said Master Sgt. Wes Sullivan, 12th Aircraft Maintenance Unit production superintendent. "The stations where aircraft are located take care of standard maintenance, but we provide the large scale inspections."
Sullivan added, just like motor vehicles, aircraft require servicing periodically after certain intervals. For vehicles its miles, for aircraft its flights.
It takes a team of crew chiefs, avionic specialists, fabricators, and non-destructive inspection (NDI) specialists to ensure the integrity of the aircraft meets flight requirements.
"We work 24-hour operations to provide the [forward operating location] a serviceable aircraft to continue the mission," said Staff Sgt. Derek Harris, 12th AMU RQ-4 dedicated crew chief. "It's a constant struggle to coordinate everything between different back-shops, but somehow we find the efficient and effective way to balance it to provide a safe and reliable aircraft to FOLs in a timely manner."
The aircraft starts it's inspection by being disassembled, so parts can be inspected by the NDI section. NDI interprets and evaluates defective anomalies on parts using magnetic particle, ultrasonic, eddy current, radiographic, liquid penetrate and other emerging technologies.
"While NDI has their tasks, the crew chiefs and avionic specialists complete the delayed discrepancy write ups and replace parts that are faulty," Sullivan said. "We basically re-service the aircraft and send it to its next mission."
The re-servicing can be anything from replacing engine components to updating parts of the avionics system.
The 12th AMU communicates with commands around the world to keep an update on the status of each RQ-4. This gives both parties the ability to continue meeting mission demands.
"When you look over fleet dynamics you need to consider the command's mission demands and how we accommodate that while getting jets here to inspect," Sullivan said. "It's like a choreographed routine; we plan out the pieces to make the proper movements because the mission never stops."