In recent days, an aircraft has broken a record of followers on flight tracking platforms. It appears on radar with the “FORTE” callsign (FORTE11, FORTE12…) and has been seen at over 55,000 feet above the Black Sea, in flights that reach an impressive 30+ hours in duration. As you navigate, tens of thousands of people “watch” your journey on FlightRadar24.
The aircraft attracting all this attention is the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk reconnaissance drone. An advanced “spy” system whose cameras can collect near real-time high-resolution images of large areas in all types of weather, day or night. Each unit costs $222 million and weighs 10 tons at take-off, powered by a Rolls Royce turbojet engine.
Before the Russian invasion, the Global Hawk had been making flights over Ukrainian territory and close to the borders, mapping the arrival of the Russians. However, with last week’s invasion, he was concentrated in the Black Sea region, keeping watch over southern Ukraine.
Still, its range allows it to track important movements and provide intelligence for war, which makes the “spying” side furious. On Saturday, CNN published , in its real-time update, that Russia was accusing the US of monitoring them using the Global Hawk and providing information to Ukraine. The Americans denied.
“Russian claims that the United States was somehow involved in Ukrainian naval operations near the island of Zmiiny are false. We do not provide ISR or any other support. Attribute this to just another lie by the Russian Defense Ministry,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told CNN.
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WHERE THEY TAKE OFF – As part of NATO equipment, the Global Hawks have been seen taking off from the Sigonella base in Italy. In 2019, NATO took delivery of the first of 5 RQ-4D Global Hawk strategic intelligence and surveillance UAVs.
In a last tracking through FlightRadar24 , made on Saturday night (26), it was possible to see another of the ultra-long flights of the Global Hawk over the Black Sea. Whether it is sending data to Ukraine is unknown, but Russian troops are definitely being monitored.