Yokota AIR BASE, Japan — Japan will buy three Global Hawk drones and may fly them out of Misawa Air Base, according to Japanese media.
State Broadcaster NHK and the Kyodo news agency reported Monday on plans to buy the Northrop Grumman-built Global Hawks along with four E-2D Advanced Hawkeye early-warning aircraft.
Defense Ministry officials have asked for funds to buy the drones in the draft of next fiscal year’s budget. They plan to start using them in fiscal 2019 and may base the aircraft at Misawa, in Aomori prefecture, according to the media reports.
Japan’s government has signaled that it wants to increase its surveillance capabilities as it seeks to respond to Chinese aggression in disputed maritime territories and North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.
A U.S. Air Force Global Hawk first flew over Japan during relief efforts following the earthquake and tsunami that struck the country’s east coast in 2011. Several Guam-based U.S. Global Hawks deployed to Misawa for the first time this summer.
Northrop Grumman welcomed the sales a statement issued Monday.
“Once Japan formally announces its budget later this year, we will begin contract negotiations with our U.S. customers in the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy respectively,” the statement said.
U.S. Forces Japan spokesman Kenneth Hoffman said in an email Monday that American officials are aware of Japan’s decision to buy the drones.
“The Global Hawk system can be used to cooperatively address common regional challenges such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, piracy, terrorism and other issues affecting the region,” he said, citing the use of the aircraft in Operation Tomodachi – the earthquake/tsunami relief effort in Japan in 2011 – and Operation Damayan – the response to last year’s Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.