A pair of unarmed Global Hawk surveillance drones have been deployed to Japan by the US Air Force, possibly to keep an eye on North Korea and naval operations in China. According to the Associated Press, the drones will use the Misawa Air Base in northern Japan through October, though the US government has not provided any details on the missions that will be carried out. The Global Hawk drones are made by aerospace and military contractor Northrop Grumman, and specialize in long-distance, high-altitude unmanned flights. Last year, a Global Hawk flew for more than 34 hours at altitudes of up to 60,000 feet.
The U.S. Air Force has deployed two of its most advanced long-distance surveillance drones to a base in northern Japan over the past week, enhancing its ability to monitor nuclear activities in North Korea and Chinese naval operations. The deployment of the two unarmed Global Hawk drones to Japan, a key U.S. ally, is intended to demonstrate Washington’s commitment to security in Asia as part of its rebalancing of forces to the Pacific. But it will likely rankle with China and North Korea, which have been working to improve their own unmanned aircraft fleets. Lt. Gen. Sam Angelella, commander of U.S. Forces Japan, said Friday the drones will remain here until October, when the typhoon season on the drones’ home base on the Pacific island of Guam is over. Similar rotations from Guam to Misawa are expected in the future, though Angelella said no firm plans have been made. He refused to comment on the specific missions the drones will carry out but noted that the Global Hawk’s “capabilities are well known.”