The U.S. Air Force deployed a squadron of RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned surveillance aircraft intra-theater to Misawa Air Base, Japan from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, on June 1, 2018.
The deployment was in order to maintain theater-wide Global Hawk operations through the Summer and Fall.
According to a statement from the Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), this rotational deployment of the Global Hawk is temporary but necessary in order to provide a base from which the platform can be reliably operated during months in which inclement weather, including typhoon activities, has the potential to hinder readiness. The Andersen-based RQ-4s were deployed to Yokota Air Base, Japan in 2017 and to Misawa AB in 2014 and 2015 for the same reasons.
The statement added that the United States continues to deploy its most advanced capabilities to Japan, including the Global Hawk, as a part of the commitment to the security of Japan and to the stability of the region.
Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk
Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk is a large high altitude, long endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft powered by a single Rolls-Royce F137-RR-100 turbofan engine.
It provides a broad overview and systematic surveillance using high-resolution synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and long-range electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors with long loiter times over target areas. It can survey as much as 40,000 sq. miles of terrain a day.
It has a service ceiling of 60,000 feet (18,288 meters) and can fly continuously for 34 hours with a range of 12,300 nautical miles. The unit price of a single RQ-4 is $222 million including developmental costs.
The RQ-4 Global Hawk has become a critical aerial asset for the Air Force as it gives joint battlefield commanders near real-time, high-resolution intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) imagery. The aircraft provides a clear information on enemy positions and targets effectively integrating with other manned and unmanned aircraft, and ground assets to prevail over hostile forces.
The USAF has more than 30 RQ-4 surveillance drones. It provides multi-intelligence operations for six combatant commanders, and has been recognized as the safest aircraft in the inventory of the US Air Force.