Japan’s first Global Hawk arrives at Misawa Air Base

Northrop Grumman announced on March 14 that it had successfully ferried the first of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s (JASDF’s) three RQ-4B Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Misawa Air Base in Japan.

The Global Hawk departed Northrop Grumman’s facility in Palmdale, California, on March 10, and landed at Misawa Air Base on March 12, following an 18.7-hour non-stop transpacific flight. Japan has ordered three examples of the RQ-4B to provide the JASDF with a platform that is capable of conducting persistent, high-altitude surveillance in the Indo-Pacific region.

Japanese RQ-4B Block 30i [Northrop Grumman]
Japan's first Northrop Grumman RQ-4B Block 30i Global Hawk in flight. This aircraft completed an 18.7-hour transpacific flight from Palmdale, California, to Misawa Air Base, Japan, on March 12, 2022. In total, Japan have ordered three RQ-4Bs. Northrop Grumman

Equipped with mission-specific sensors to meet the JASDF’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) needs, the RQ-4B and its capabilities will allow Japan and its allies to monitor known/growing threats and provide humanitarian assistance/disaster response (HA/DR) support in both day and night settings. Northrop Grumman adds that “combined with other Japanese intelligence assets, the advanced UAV will provide solutions to monitor and deter regional threats.”

Commenting on the arrival of the first RQ-4B at Misawa, Jane Bishop – vice president and general manager of Global Surveillance at Northrop Grumman – said: “The arrival of the first Japan Global Hawk is an important milestone in the development of this critical security asset… Global Hawk’s ISR capabilities will provide invaluable support to Japanese national security and to the security of allies across the region.”

Northrop Grumman was awarded a $489.9m contract to produce and deliver three RQ-4B Block 30i Global Hawks to the JASDF under the Japan Global Hawk programme on November 19, 2018. The deal included three RQ-4B air vehicles (each with an integrated sensor suite), along with two ground control elements, spares and support equipment/services. Japan’s first Global Hawk completed its maiden flight from Palmdale, California, on April 15, 2021.

The JASDF will become the fifth air arm to operate a variant of the Global Hawk family, after the US Air Force (RQ-4A/B and EQ-4B); US Navy (RQ-4A and MQ-4C Triton); NATO (RQ-4D Phoenix) and the Republic of Korea Air Force (RQ-4B). Australia also plans to order six MQ-4C Tritons – the maritime variant of the Global Hawk family – with the first set to be delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force by the end of 2024. The first four examples were ordered on May 29, 2019 (one) and June 25, 2020 (three), respectively.