US deploys advanced military drones in Japan airbase

US deploys advanced military drones in Japan airbase
Sat May 31, 2014 13:00:31

The US Air Force has deployed two of its most advanced military Global Hawk drones in one of their air bases in northern Japan with the likely aim of conducting spying operations against China and North Korea given the top-secret features of the pilotless aerial vehicles.

The development comes as commander of US Forces in Japan, Lieutenant General Sam Angelella, claimed that the US Global Hawk drones will remain on the Misawa Air Base, located nearly 600 kilometers northeast of Tokyo until October, when the typhoon season at the drones' home, Andersen Air Force Base, on the island of Guam in the western Pacific is over, RT reported Friday.

The American commander, however, refused to elaborate on the exact activities of the drones, saying only that the Global Hawk's "capabilities are well known."

According to the report, the drones have an operational altitude of up to 18.3 kilometers and can fly for more than 24 hours. From Japan, it can easily monitor areas on the Asian mainland, including the neighboring countries of North Korea and China.

Angelella also stated that the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk has proven itself to be one of the most reliable in the US Air Force. In September 2013, the vehicle covered at least 100,000 flight hours, three-quarters of which were performed in “combat.”

The US commander said Global Hawk drones have been used in humanitarian missions, including Japan's 2011 tsunami and the Philippines’ 2013 typhoon. They were also operating in missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The first Global Hawk flew to Japan from its home base on May 24, while the second arrived in Misawa on Wednesday morning. The two vehicles are expected to start operating in the Asia-Pacific region in early June.

“I’d like the US military to make relevant information public in the future and to make efforts to ensure safe flights and operations,” Misawa Mayor Kazumasa Taneichi told the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, after the second US Global Hawk was deployed on the base.

Japan’s government is now planning to purchase three US Global Hawk drones, because deployment of these vehicles will help the country to familiarize itself with the aircraft.

In April, some local residents staged a demonstration in front of the Misawa Air Base against to the deployment of the US drones.

However, their protests are comparatively small in comparison with those launched on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, which is home to more than half of the 47,000 American troops and their families.

In February, several hundred people who felt unfairly burdened by hosting many US military facilities on the island, rallied against a plan to relocate a US military base to another site on Okinawa.

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