A military headquarters in Afghanistan has confirmed that a Northrop Grumman EQ-4B Global Hawk crashed in the southeast city of Jalalabad on 21 August 2011 in a still unexplained mishap for the high-altitude unmanned air system. The EQ-4 is an RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 20 modified to carry the Battlefield Airborne Communication Node (BACN). Only two RQ-4s have been modified into EQ-4s, with two more undergoing modifications.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), a coalition military headquarters based in Kabul, told Flightglobal the crash occurred on 21 August, or one day later than an RQ-4 mishap recently posted on the website for the US Air Force's accident investigation board (AIB). Air Combat Command, which owns the Global Hawk aircraft, said they are processing an AIB report for an EQ-4 mishap from 20 August. "The aircraft was recovered without incident. We have no reporting of the aircraft returned to service," said ISAF.

The aircraft reportedly crashed well away from the airport in the Naranj Bagh district of Jalalabad, damaging two houses but causing no injuries. Pictures purportedly of the scene show signs of fire.

Initial reports from ISAF indicate mechanical problems were encountered during flight. While Jalalabad is home to a large and active ISAF airbase, no Global Hawks are known to be based there.

The USAF has yet to confirm details, but the AIB website classifies the mishap as a Class A event, which is reserved for incidents causing more than $2 million damage or a fatality. The category includes total airframe loss.

 Global Hawk Block 30 - Northrop Grumman

© Northrop Grumman

An ISAF press release from 21 August 2011 reports that an unmanned air vehicle (UAV) made a forced landing in Jalalabad. The type of aircraft was not identified, but no other incidents on that date are reported. A General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-1 Predator crash was recorded on 20 August at a different location.

Global Hawks have made emergency landings in Afghanistan on at least two prior occasions, according to sources with knowledge of the aircraft. At least two other Global Hawks have crashed flying operational missions in the Central Command area of operations, which includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and other locations where US UAVs have been noted.

Northrop declined to comment on the 21 August incident, referring all questions to the USAF.

The AIB investigation panel is due to release its report later in 2012.

Source: Flight International