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Japan Receives First of Three RQ-4B Global Hawks From US

The Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) has received its first of three Northrop Grumman RQ-4B Global Hawk drones.

The JASDF announced that the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flew from the United States, reaching Misawa Air Base in northeast Japan on March 12.

The delivery took place 11 months after Northrop Grumman conducted the RQ-4B’s maiden flight in Palmdale, California, on April 15, 2021.

Tokyo will procure three Global Hawks from the US company to advance its intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities.

“[RQ-4Bs are being] introduced in order to conduct information gathering in areas relatively remote from Japan, as well as persistent airborne monitoring during situations with heightened tensions,” the JASDF said in a statement.

“It will greatly contribute to operational strengthening of the [Self-Defense Forces] and Japan-US interoperability.”

The three RQ-4Bs will cost more than $500 million. The remaining deliveries are scheduled to be complete this year.

About the RQ-4B

The large, high-altitude, long-endurance UAV can fly at an altitude of 60,000 feet (18,288 meters) and stay in the air for more than 34 hours.

The precise range of the RQ-4B’s cameras and sensors is confidential. However, it has a line of sight to targets at up to 340 miles (547 kilometers).

Combined with other technical assets, the Global Hawk will monitor and deter regional threats to Japan, enhancing its security. Beyond intelligence and surveillance, the drone can be deployed in humanitarian and disaster relief operations.

The US Air Force has employed Global Hawks since 2001 in areas such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and North Africa.

The UAV has also been deployed with NATO and South Korean forces, with more than 320,000 flight hours.

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