Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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US Deploying its Largest Military Aerial Drone to Asia to Spy on China and North Korea

Hi, China and North Korea

(Photo : USAF) U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk.

The United States is deploying its largest unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) -- the RQ-4 Global Hawk and the MQ-4C Triton, both from Northrop Grumman -- to Asia as tensions with North Korea rise and the conflict with China over the South China Sea remains unresolved.

The U.S. Air Force will boost its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities against both China and North Korea with the deployment in May of the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk UAVs to Japan.

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Five of the massive UAVs, the largest in service with the air force, will be based at Yokota Air Base outside Tokyo from May to October this year. Global Hawk is 14.5 meters long; has a wingspan of 40 meters and a height of 4.7 meters.

The Global Hawks are currently based at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam. The air force's official reason for transferring the Global Hawks and the unit operating them to Japan, which is 2,500 kilometers from Guam, is because the UAVs are "adversely impacted by the frequency of inclement weather, including typhoon activities".

"This rotational deployment of the Global Hawk is temporary but necessary to provide a base from which the platform can be reliably operated during the summer."

The air force, however, said it continues to deploy "its most advanced capabilities to Japan, including the Global Hawk, in keeping with our commitment to further contribute to the security of Japan and to the stability of the region".

The MQ-4C Triton, which is flown exclusively by the U.S. Navy, will be deployed to Asia and the Pacific after reaching initial operating capability in 2018.

The largest UAV operated by the U.S. military, Triton provides persistent maritime ISR 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It can stay aloft for over 24 hours at 17,000 meters at speeds of up to 610 km/h.

Triton is a forward-deployed, land-based system operated autonomously and primarily used for maritime surveillance operations.

The UAV offers a persistent maritime ISR capability via a multi-sensor mission payload (radar, electro-optical / infra-red / electronic support measures). It also provides ISR capabilities such as tracking, vessel detection and classification over vast ocean and coastal regions.

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