Northrop Grumman Corporation successfully completed the first flight of Japan’s RQ-4B Global Hawk on April 15, 2021 from Palmdale, California. With an unmatched combination of range, endurance, and payload capability, Global Hawk is the only platform that provides greater data collection flexibility than space or medium-altitude assets. The capability will provide solutions to monitor and deter regional threats to ensure Japan has a highly effective national security posture well into the future.
Global Hawk is the only high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned air vehicle (UAV) to deliver near real-time on demand data around the clock. Once fielded, Global Hawk will integrate with other Japanese intelligence assets, including ground-based command and control units. Northrop Grumman’s family of autonomous HALE systems, including Global Hawk, are a critical component of networked, global ISR collection for allied nations and mutual defense organizations around the world.
“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,” said Jane Bishop, vice president and general manager, autonomous systems, Northrop Grumman. “This successful first flight is a significant milestone in delivering Global Hawk to our Japanese allies.”
Global Hawk collects ISR data that enables decision makers to act with the right information at the right time. When Japan’s Global Hawk fleet is fully operational, it will be part of a growing list of allied nations operating high-altitude long-endurance UAV. The United States, Australia, NATO and Korea will all be operating versions of this vital national surveillance asset. The Global Hawk performs duties similar to that of the Lockheed U-2. The U.S. Navy has developed the Global Hawk into the MQ-4C Triton maritime surveillance platform.
On 24 August 2013, Japan announced that the Japan Air Self-Defense Force planned to operate one Global Hawk jointly with the U.S. by 2015. On 21 November 2014, the Japanese Ministry of Defense officially decided to procure the Global Hawk, which beat out the General Atomics Guardian ER; Japan has also been interested in the purchase of three aircraft. U.S. Global Hawks have been operating jointly with the JSDF for several years.
Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems will provide the government of Japan with RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles and related services under a contract worth $489.9 million. The contract will deliver three RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30i drones with sensor payloads, two ground control stations, spare parts and tools, engineering, management, and site surveys. The acquisition falls under Foreign Military Sales with work anticipated to run through September 2022 and $64.9 million to be obligated upon release of funding.