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Global Hawks to stay in Guam this summer

The U.S. will not send its RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft to Japan this summer because of runway work at Misawa Air Base, Air Force officials said.

U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO

By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 2, 2016

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The U.S. will not send RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft to Japan this summer, Air Force officials said Friday.

The Guam-based unarmed surveillance planes have flown out of Misawa Air Base in northern Japan the past two summers. However, renovation of the runway means the aircraft will not be deployed there this year, Fifth Air Force spokesman Maj. George Tobias said Friday.

“We’ll be conducting all of this year’s Global Hawk operations out of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam,” Pacific Air Forces spokesman Capt. Ray Geoffroy said in an email.

The drones, which can fly up to 60,000 feet, support intelligence-gathering operations throughout the Pacific, U.S. officials said.

Global Hawks are a key tool in keeping tabs on North Korea’s nuclear weapons development and Chinese naval maneuvers. Both are of particular interest to the Japanese government, which plans to acquire its own large unmanned surveillance aircraft.

The aircraft played a key role in the disaster-relief effort that followed the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that struck Japan in March 2011. They also flew missions over the Philippines as part of the Typhoon Haiyan relief effort in 2013.

robson.seth@stripes.com