U.S. Drones to Monitor North Korea

Global Hawk

The U.S. military next year will begin flying Global Hawk surveillance drones from Japan on missions to monitor North Korea, U.S. and Japanese officials announced this week.

The Air Force plans to base two or three of the high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles made by Falls Church, Va.-based Northrop Grumman Corp. from an as-yet unspecified base in Japan, according to an article in The Washington Post.

The news came as Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited the country. President Barack Obama canceled a trip to Asia this week because of the federal government shutdown over a budget impasse.

U.S. drones, including the Global Hawk, flew over Japan in 2011 to collect data and imagery of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which had a partial meltdown after a tsunami struck the region. But the jet-powered military aircraft has never been stationed in the country before, according to the report.

The Air Force’s RQ-4 Global Hawk is the biggest unmanned aerial vehicle in the U.S. arsenal.

The high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft is capable of flying as high as 60,000 feet for more than a day at a time, according to a service fact sheet. It collects and transmits imagery and video using advanced synthetic aperture radar, electro-optical and infrared sensors and satellite communications systems.

The Air Force already stations Global Hawks in Guam and the Persian Gulf. Basing the aircraft in Japan will improve U.S. surveillance of North Korea, which earlier this year threatened to attack American allies in the region; as well as China, which has escalated territorial disputes with Japan.

In another first, the U.S. military also plans to station Boeing Co.-made P-8 surveillance planes in Japan, according to the article. The Chicago-based company is talking to potential customers about selling more exports of the maritime patrol plane.


About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.

24 Comments on "U.S. Drones to Monitor North Korea"

  1. Wow, a big, slow target. Just the thing for monitoring China's growing military might. Seems like we've been down this road before. I believe it was the 1950's with an airplane called the U-2. The opponent of our making that time was the Soviet Union. Ring a bell to anyone?

  2. Why are we still spending money on these when they aren't nearly as capable as the 50+ year old U-2s?

  3. Francis Gary Powers

  4. This thing is perfect for BAMS and monitoring the North Korean nuke program. It doesn't need to fly OVER targets but loiter in the area for long periods of time

  5. Real time images, (Unlike the U-2), you can take it down, but the info is already home.

  6. I guess this is Ok if we don't mind the ground beneath our feet being turned into fire.

  7. Now why would you wanna announce this publicly?

  8. FYI there is a pilot for the RQ-4, RPA (Remotely Piloted Aircraft) should clue you into that. Capable, yes. If shot down, which is highly unlikely, there is no loss of a soul on board. Unpopular but smart move on an already available asset.

  9. I must question how survivable these will be against whatever long-range SAM systems North Korea has, but those saying "repeat of history" seem to be forgetting the fact that this is an UNMANNED aerial vehicle. So at least there is that.

  10. We have so many sats in air, that we can even make shots of these planes..Youd wonder what they are up to when they release to air almost every…….We are and stay ahead…

  11. One, a lockheed martin employed what ever they are doing doesnt have the time to discus such things ,even after working there. If still empl. they would have been sacked,chucked out with vocal limitations!! Its been done a few times…

  12. Every time donuts are delivered to Asia the airforce makes a big thing about it. Got to make it look like something is happening.
    Otherwise the pacific pivot would look kind of pathetic.

  13. As if we do not already have drones monitoring NK….

  14. Figure this is a job better handled by NRO, less risk to use overhead survalance platforms than strategic and tactical UA systems.

  15. Whats to monitor? Let me help you out. The nukes we said they could never have? They got em. Hope that helps. Next up? Monitoring Iran's nukes.

  16. So no one remembers Navy EC-121 callsign Papa Romeo 21 that was shot down in International Airspace April 15, 1969, with loss of all 31 crewmembers? April 9, 1975, I was in an EP-3E and an NK MiG-21 launched an AA-1 at us.

    Manned recon aircraft against NK is agenuine risk.

  17. Wow. Oson AFB can smell a kimchi
    fart in NK in nano seconds. The GH is only good to snifff out the residuals of nuke testing.

  18. More hubris eminating from Imperial America in unwarranted provocations against North Korea. Interestingly, none of the preceding commentors have even questioned the legitimacy of US drone flights over North Korean territory . Our nation is on the brink of internal collapse and yet the insanity of US military imperialism continues unabated. As the world watches on, Obama plays his fiddle, while we Americans continue to revel in a mad orgy of collective degradation. Why must the US further provoke NK (or any other country) for no apparent reasons? The military-industrial-media complex that controls the thought processes of most Americans continues to run amok. Our national past-time has become waging unwinnable, sequential wars of aggression thoughout the world. The good news for the rest of the world is that imperialism is a self-defeating system, and sooner or later the United States will succumb to its murderous legacy.

  19. No no…I no think North Korea want to attack Japan, mesa no think so!!!

  20. OPSEC at it's finest…why does the world need to know that we're monitoring Korea?

  21. Right now none of our US Generals want peace time. So think about a scenerio where they're given the oppurtunity and excuss to spy on a volintile country, who in good chance will shoot these planes down. The generals sitting in those chairs just got there oppurtunity to push more US boots into the Pacific.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.