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US Global Hawks begin arriving in Japan

An RQ-4 Global Hawk sits on the flightline at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 2, 2023. Photo: US Air Force

US Pacific Air Forces has begun positioning RQ-4 Global Hawks from Guam at the Yokota Air Base in Japan.

Starting May 15, Global Hawks from Andersen Air Force Base are providing theater-wide enduring operations in support of maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific.

The remotely piloted aerial systems (RPAS) have been rotationally operating from Yokota AB since 2017.

The Global Hawk’s mission is to provide a broad range of US intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities to support joint forces, and Allies and partners in worldwide peacetime, contingency and crisis operations.

The Global Hawk serves as a high-altitude, long-endurance, remotely piloted and unarmed, aerial reconnaissance system. The aircraft provides persistent, day and night, high-resolution, all-weather imagery of large geographic areas with an array of integrated sensors and cameras.

The Global Hawk’s mission is to provide a broad spectrum of ISR collection capability to support joint combatant forces in worldwide peacetime, contingency and wartime operations. The Global Hawk provides persistent near-real-time coverage using imagery intelligence (IMINT), signals intelligence (SIGINT) and moving target indicator (MTI) sensors.

The Global Hawk also supports humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations such as during Operation Tomodachi, when the Defense Department mobilized 24,000 service members to assist Japan with disaster relief after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit the northeastern Honshu coast March 11, 2011, resulting in a tsunami that flooded the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

It is worth noting that Japan itself is buying the platform for its air force. The Japan Air Self Defence Force received the first of three Global Hawks from Northrop Grumman in March 2022.

By receiving its first system, Japan joined the United States, Australia, NATO and South Korea as a Global Hawk operator.