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Japan receives first RQ-4B Global Hawk

The first of three RQ-4BRQ-4B Block 30 Global Hawk UAVs ordered for the JASDF was delivered on March 12. (Northrop Grumman)

The Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) received its first RQ-4B Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on 12 March.

The delivery was made 11 months after the first of three RQ-4 Block 30i high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) aircraft ordered by Japan made its maiden flight in Palmdale, California, on April 15 2021.

In a statement the JASDF said that the RQ-4Bs are being “introduced for the purpose of gathering information on regions relatively far from Japan and will constantly conduct aerial monitoring when the situation becomes tense. The aircraft will contribute to the strengthening of the operational ability of the Air Self-Defense Force and strengthen interoperability between Japan and the United States”.

Images of the aircraft posted by JASDF show it carrying temporary US Air Force markings. Japanese lawmakers passed legislation in April 2020 to establish an RQ-4 squadron at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan.

Janes had previously reported that Tokyo had selected the aircraft in late 2014 at a cost of USD489.9 million. The contract is being fulfilled by the US Department of Defense under the Foreign Military Sales programme.

According to the Pentagon, the contract includes “an enhanced integrated sensor suite payload; two ground-control elements; spares and support equipment; system engineering; programme management tasks required to execute, manage, control, and report on all programme activities; and a site survey”.

The RQ-4Bs have an operating altitude of 60,000 feet and can stay airborne for more than 32 hours, according to the Northrop Grumman. The aircraft has a range of 22,800 kilometres.

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