|Arthur Dominic Villasanta |||May 26, 2014 02:56 AM EDT|
A Global Hawk in flight
The most sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicle or drone in the U.S. armory was deployed to Japan on Saturday amid rising tensions between Japan and China.
The arrival of the first of two high-altitude Northrop Grumman "RQ-4 Global Hawks" marks the first time this state-of-the-art spy drone has been deployed to Japan. The United States Air Force said the drone will support US intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance missions and contingency operations throughout the Pacific theater.
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A second Global Hawk will arrive on May 28. The pair will conduct aerial surveillance operations starting June and ending October.
The USAF claims the deployment of the spy drone is partially aimed at monitoring typhoons that frequently hit Guam during summer.
Defense analysts, however, believe the pair of Global Hawks will be used to monitor China and North Korea at a time when China's increasing maritime assertiveness is bothering Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines.
The drone's deployment also follows news the United States is in the process of building a new "security architecture" among its allies in the Asia-Pacific in response to China's increasingly aggressive moves in the disputed South China Sea.
The security alliance will consist of the Philippines, Vietnam, Australia and Japan, according to unnamed official sources in the Philippine government. Press reports from Manila said Washington also wants to include Singapore and Thailand in the alliance while encouraging Malaysia to become its strategic partner.
The Global Hawk is packed with sophisticated surveillance and communications equipment. It can fly at an altitude of 18,000 meters and stay airborne for some 30 hours.
It is 14.5 meters long and has a wingspan of about 40 meters. Global Hawk can survey as much as 40,000 square miles (100,000 km2) of terrain a day.
The United States Air Force said the superior surveillance capabilities of the Global Hawk allow more precise weapons targeting and better protection of friendly forces.
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