On Sunday, April 19, Harry Harris, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, announced the second of four Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Block 30 Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) it ordered from the United States in 2014. The US ambassador to South Korea, released an image on 19 April showing two Global Hawks in Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) markings parked in a hangar at an undisclosed location. The first of four RQ-4 Global Hawk drones for South Korea arrived in December 2019 at Sacheon Air Base. Two more Global Hawks were expected to arrive in South Korea in April.
In 2011, South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) expressed interest in acquiring at least four RQ-4Bs to increase intelligence capabilities following the exchange of the Wartime Operational Control from the U.S. to the Republic of Korea. On 5 July 2013, the Korean National Assembly advised the government to re-evaluate the RQ-4 purchase, again citing high costs. On 17 December 2014, Northrop Grumman was awarded a $657 million contract by South Korea for four RQ-4B Block 30 Global Hawks. The first RQ-4 arrived on 23 December 2019 at a base near Sacheon. The remaining three RQ-4s are to be delivered in the first half of 2020.
RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are expected to improve South Korea’s capability to monitor North Korea’s nuclear and missile activities, adding to its Peace Eye airborne early warning & control (AEW&C) system aircraft. The RoKAF already has an ISR battalion, but it has decided to create a higher-level one to operate Global Hawk drones and analyze the data collected by them. The Global Hawk, which features high-altitude and long-endurance flight, is known for persistent near-real-time coverage using imagery intelligence (IMINT), signals intelligence (SIGINT) and moving target indicator (MTI) sensors.
The Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk is a high-altitude remotely-piloted surveillance aircraft. It was initially designed by Ryan Aeronautical (now part of Northrop Grumman), and known as Tier II+ during development. The Global Hawk performs duties similar to that of the Lockheed U-2. The RQ-4 provides a broad overview and systematic surveillance using high-resolution synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and long-range electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors with long loiter times over target areas. It can survey as much as 40,000 square miles (100,000 km2) of terrain a day, an area the size of South Korea or Iceland. It is used as a High-Altitude Long Endurance platform covering the spectrum of intelligence collection capability to support forces in worldwide military operations.