A U.S. Global Hawk surveillance drone arrived Saturday morning at Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture, marking the first time the drone has been deployed in Japan.
The Global Hawk is 14.5 meters long and has a wingspan of about 40 meters. Capable of conducting extended surveillance at altitudes above 15,000 meters, it is one of a pair of Guam-based Global Hawks to be deployed at the Misawa base from May to October. The second is expected to arrive Wednesday.
The two reconnaissance aircraft will likely start operating in the Asia-Pacific region in early June.
The U.S. military cited difficulties in operating the unmanned aircraft from Guam in the summer due to the typhoons that frequently hit the U.S. territory in the Pacific. Their deployment is also believed to be aimed at monitoring North Korea and China at a time when Pyongyang's nuclear and missile development programs and Beijing's maritime assertiveness have raised security concerns in Japan.
The Defense Ministry tried to ease local safety concerns, saying that since the Global Hawk flies at such a high altitude, it will have little impact on local air traffic. The ministry also said it will make efforts to ensure safety by asking the U.S. side to arrange flight plans in advance.
Still, some local residents voiced concern about potential problems.
"Because it is an unmanned aircraft, I'm wondering if it can properly deal with any trouble that occurs," said Kunisada Ogasawara, a 69-year-old local resident.