The US Pacific Air Forces has relocated RQ-4 Global Hawks from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam to Yokota Air Base in Japan, starting May 15. This relocation aims to boost enduring intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) operations in the Indo-Pacific region. The Global Hawk offers a broad range of ISR capabilities that support joint forces, allies, and partners during peacetime and crisis operations worldwide.
The deployment is seen as diplomatically significant in strengthening relations with allies like Japan and building trust and reassurance through shared intelligence and regional awareness. Aerospace and defense analyst James Marques suggests that future regional defense deals may include increased sensor integration with partner countries.
The RQ-4 Global Hawk is an advanced high-altitude, long-endurance drone designed for aerial surveillance. It provides military leaders with near real-time, high-resolution imagery of large geographic areas. Equipped with sensors and cameras, the Global Hawk can capture high-resolution, all-weather images, day or night.
The drone’s synthetic aperture radar and ground-moving target indicator operate at X-band, providing images with a resolution of 3ft in wide-area search mode and 1ft in spot mode.
The Global Hawk has played a critical role in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. For example, during Operation Tomodachi, in response to the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011, the Global Hawk was deployed to survey the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant. The drone has been operating from Yokota Air Base on a rotational basis since 2017.