June 14, 2017

By: Becky Purser

Work is nearly complete at Robins Air Force Base to make a spy plane more efficient.

The RQ-4 Global Hawk — the first unmanned aircraft to land at Robins or any other Air Force air logistics complex — flew in by remote control the early morning of May 24.

The aircraft underwent a paint job at the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex on base.

“For this particular aircraft, it’s just about removing the coating that was put on there by the factory and making sure all the surface is re-created back to its original shape and then putting the compounds on it — similar to doing body work on a vehicle,” said Tim Davis, a journeyman painter.

“All you’re doing is trying to create the best surface that you can get to ensure that the plane flies more efficiently.”

How does a paint job do that?

“Any time you have damage, you create drag,” Davis explained. “All those areas where it is chipped, the paint is peeling back, that creates air drag.

“By taking those surfaces, sanding them back, eliminating all the chips, eliminating all those areas, you allow the air to flow over the airplane at a more efficient level, therefore, causing better fuel efficiency,” he said.

Joshua Campbell, a corrosion control section chief, said hundreds of people were involved in the project to bring the Global Hawk to Robins.

And that preparation work included creating a permanent launch and recovery element that enables the aircraft to be landed and launched at Robins, Campbell said.

The aircraft can be controlled from Robins within an area of about 150 to 200 aeronautical miles, said Thomas Lamb, a former Global Hawk sustainment engineering chief.

“It’s a potential future workload for Robins Air Force Base, and hopefully, you’ll be able to see them landing day in and day out on Robins Air Force Base,” Lamb said.

The autonomous, reconnaissance aircraft can also be controlled by satellite, Lamb said.

“So you can be anywhere on the globe to be able to control the aircraft,” he said.