Japan Plans To Acquire Global Hawks, Adding to Asia's Fleet

 - January 20, 2015, 3:11 PM
Japan's Ministry of Defense has chosen the RQ-4 Global Hawk through its type selection process, the manufacturer said. (Photo: Northrop Grumman)

Japan will join South Korea as an operator of the unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawk in the Asia Pacific region. Japan’s Ministry of Defense selected the Global Hawk as well as Northrop Grumman’s E-2D Advanced Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft as part of its Fiscal Year 2015 budget, the manufacturer announced, confirming earlier reports.

Northrop Grumman’s January 18 release did not quantify numbers of aircraft, although previous reports indicate Japan will acquire three Global Hawks through the foreign military sale (FMS) process. Last month, the Air Force awarded the company a $657.4 million contract to supply four RQ-4B Block 30 Global Hawks and support equipment to South Korea, an FMS notified to the U.S. Congress in December 2012. The Air Force expects Northrop Grumman to complete the contract in June 2019.

Another nation in the region—Australia—plans to acquire the MQ-4C Triton maritime variant of the Global Hawk.

The $42 billion FY2015 budget that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet approved January 14 also provides funding for 20 Kawasaki P-1 maritime patrol aircraft, six Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fighters and five Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotors. Japan's Parliament must approve the budget.

Explaining the budget at a January 16 press conference, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said: “Basically, in order to maintain the security in the surrounding waters and airspace and ensure necessary defense capability to respond to attacks on Japan’s offshore islands in a qualitative and quantitative manner, we allocate the budget to build up major equipment such as destroyers with the Aegis [radar] system on board, P-1, F-35A, E-2D, tiltrotor aircraft, duration-type UAVs and so on.”