Northrop Grumman, the maker of the Global Hawk, announced in mid-April it completed the first test flight of an RQ-4B variant of the drone in Palmdale, California. It’s an unarmed piece of equipment that once deployed will help Japan with “protecting borders, monitoring threats and providing humanitarian assistance in times of need,” as the company’s general manager for autonomous systems, Jane Bishop, said in a statement.
“This successful first flight is a significant milestone in delivering Global Hawk to our Japanese allies,” the official added.
There are no details on the exact specifications of the drone meant to be deployed by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, but we do know it will be integrated with ground-based command and control units.
The Global Hawk had its first flight all the way back in 1998, and entered service three years later. Since then, it has clocked 250,000 flight hours with American forces over Iraq, Afghanistan, and North Africa.
Taking its power from a turbofan engine, the drone can cruise at a maximum speed of 357 mph (575 kph). The thing can go for extreme distances on a single outing, as its range is rated at over 10,000 miles (16,000 km), being capable of staying in the air more than 30 hours at a time.