First of Japan’s RQ-4B Global Hawk surveillance drones takes flight

written by Hannah Dowling | April 20, 2021

The Northrop Grumman-built unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) have completed inaugural flight tests ahead of their delivery to Japan.

Defence prime Northrop Grumman announced it successfully completed the first test flight of Japan’s RQ-4B Global Hawk last Wednesday (15 April).

The UAV was procured by the Japanese Ministry of Defence in 2014, and is expected to be integrated with other Japanese intelligence assets, including ground-based command and control units.

According to Japan’s Defence Ministry, the drones will be deployed at its Misawa Air Base in the country’s northeast, with hopes to do so by the end of this year.

Global Hawk is designed to provide high-altitude, long-endurance support, delivering near-real-time on-demand data to monitor and deter regional threats.

According to the manufacturer, the Global Hawk flies at 60,000 feet and has a line of sight to targets more than 340 miles away. The exact range of the aircraft’s cameras and sensor remain classified.

“The unarmed RQ-4B Global Hawk will provide Japan with on-demand intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information supporting the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s missions of protecting borders, monitoring threats and providing humanitarian assistance in times of need,” Jane Bishop, vice president and general manager, autonomous systems, Northrop Grumman, said.

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“This successful first flight is a significant milestone in delivering Global Hawk to our Japanese allies.”

Other nations deploying the aircraft include the US, Australia and Korea, as well as NATO.

Additional reporting by Charbel Kadib.

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