Earlier on Tuesday, Pyonguang accuses US after a pair of strategic bombers flew over the Korean peninsula in a training drill. The reckless military provocation is pushing the situation on the Korean peninsula closer to the brink of nuclear war,” the North’s official KCNA news agency said on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
An RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance drone arrived at Yokota Air Base Monday night, starting a five-month operation in Tokyo, the U.S. base announced, Japan Times reported.
A Defense Ministry source said that the aircraft could be used to conduct surveillance of North Korea, over which political tensions have been ratcheted up over the past month.
The aircraft is part of the 69th Reconnaissance Group Detachment 1 and provides near real-time aerial imagery reconnaissance support to U.S. and partner nations, according to the base’s website.
The aircraft was flown from its home at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to avoid typhoons there, the Stars and Stripes quoted Detachment 1 commander Col. Jeremy Fields as saying.
The drones and members of the detachment normally travel from their Guam home base to operate out of Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture during the summer to avoid typhoons, but that wasn’t possible last year or this year because of renovations to the runway at Misawa, the paper quoted Fields as saying.
Fields didn’t comment to the paper on the role that the aircraft might play during the current spate of tensions on the Korean Peninsula but said that the detachment’s operational tempo is normal.
Their mission involves partnering with Japan and helping with humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and counterpiracy and counterterrorism, he told the paper.
According to Defense Ministry officials, the drone is capable of capturing aerial images and electronic data from an altitude of around 50,000 feet or more — higher than the altitude commercial aircraft fly at.
Global Hawks do not have offensive capabilities. The Defense Ministry has decided to introduce three of them for the Self-Defense Forces, and will start deploying one at Misawa at the end of fiscal 2019.