TOKYO — The U.S. military will deploy long-range Global Hawk surveillance drones from Japan next year, U.S. and Japanese officials announced Thursday, marking the first time the Pentagon has been able to secure basing rights for the advanced unmanned aircraft in Northeast Asia.
The Air Force will begin flying “two or three” Global Hawks from an undetermined base in Japan next spring, a senior U.S. administration official told reporters during a visit here by Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
The drones’ primary mission will be to fly near North Korea, an area where U.S. officials hope they will greatly enhance current spying capabilities. The Air Force already has Global Hawks stationed at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, the U.S. territory in the Pacific, but North Korea is at the edge of their range and their flights often are curtailed because of bad weather.
The Air Force also has Global Hawks stationed in the Persian Gulf.