The 9th Reconnaissance Wing (9 RW) is a United States Air Force unit assigned to the Air Combat Command Twenty-Fifth Air Force. It is stationed at Beale Air Force Base, California. The wing is also the host unit at Beale.
Its mission is to organize, train and equip the Air Force’s fleet of U-2R Dragon Lady, RQ-4 Global Hawk, and MC-12 Liberty aircraft for peacetime intelligence gathering, contingency operations, conventional war fighting and Emergency War Order support. It is also assigned T-38 Talons for U-2 pilots to maintain flight hours due to limited U-2 aircraft.
Its 9th Operations Group is a descendant organization of the 9th Group (Observation), one of the 13 original combat air groups formed by the Army before World War II.
During World War II, the 9th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) was an air combat unit of the United States Army Air Forces. Active for over 60 years, the 9 RW was a component wing of Strategic Air Command’s deterrent force throughout the Cold War, performing strategic reconnaissance on a worldwide basis.
The Global Hawk is operated by the United States Air Force. It is used as a high-altitude platform covering the spectrum of intelligence collection capability to support forces in worldwide military operations. According to the United States Air Force, the superior surveillance capabilities of the aircraft allow more precise weapons targeting and better protection of friendly forces.
Cost overruns led to the original plan to acquire 63 aircraft being cut to 45, and to a 2013 proposal to mothball the 21 Block 30 signals intelligence variants. Each aircraft was to cost US$60.9 million in 2001, but this had risen to $222.7 million per aircraft (including development costs) by 2013. The U.S. Navy has developed the Global Hawk into the MQ-4C Triton maritime surveillance platform.