The first of three Northrop Grumman RQ-4B Global Hawk Block 30 high-altitude long-endurance unmanned aircraft for the Japanese Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) made its maiden flight from the company’s Palmdale facility in California on April 15.
The first flight comes after Japan ordered the three aircraft in November 2018, and after the proposed sale was formally approved by the US State Department in 2015. The aircraft will be fitted with Northrop Grumman’s Enhanced Integrated Sensor Suite comprising a synthetic aperture radar, and infrared/electro-optical sensor, and an advanced signals-intelligence (SIGINT) package.
“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,” Northrop Grumman’s vice president and general manager of autonomous systems, Jane Bishop said in a release. “This successful first flight is a significant milestone in delivering Global Hawk to our Japanese allies.”
The aircraft are planned to be based at the northern base of Misawa on Japan’s main island of Honshu, and deliveries are expected to start in 2023.