USAF Global Hawk begins Japan rotation


The US Air Force (USAF) has deployed a Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk high altitude long endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) from Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base to Yokota Air Base in Japan to ensure that the UAV provides continued support to the US Indo-Pacific Command.

Annual Rotation 

An RQ-4 operated by the USAF’s 319th Reconnaissance Wing arrived at Yokota, which is near Tokyo, on 30 May. The annual rotation was agreed between the United States and Japan in 2013.

“The movement maintains operations for Global Hawks during months of inclement weather endured at Andersen AFB, as typhoons and other scenarios have the potential to hinder readiness,” USAF officials said.

“Having alternate locations to execute our mission during seasons of inclement weather ensures our ability to continue executing US Indo-Pacific Command and the alliance reconnaissance requirements in support of the defence of Japan and to maintain international peace and security in the region,” they added.

Global Hawk support

The Global Hawk supports a broad range of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions across the US military and in support of joint operations with persistent all-weather imagery of large geographic areas with its array of integrated sensors and high-definition cameras.

Besides military ISR operations, the Global Hawk has been used to support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations such as the post-earthquake and tsunami Operation Tomodachi in 2011 and also assisted with search and rescue missions near Japan.

The type has gained favour with regional countries, with Japan and South Korea acquiring three and four air vehicles, respectively, with integrated sensor suites and associated logistics and training support. The first of South Korea’s Global Hawks arrived at Sacheon Air Base in December 2019, followed by another in April 2020.

Australia has also committed to acquiring a maritime-domain optimised version of the air vehicle called the MQ-4C Triton.

by JR Ng