RQ-4 Global Hawk leaves Misawa, flies south for winter
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Editor's note: Names have been left out of the article due to security concerns. After temporarily nesting here for the summer, two remotely-piloted RQ-4 Global Hawks returned to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.
The Global Hawks arrived in May, marking the first time the aircraft landed in Japan.
During its stay, the remotely piloted aircraft was able to complete numerous intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions and showcase its capabilities uninhibited.
"While at Misawa, we flew June, July, August, September and October without one weather loss," one of the RQ-4 Global Hawk pilots said. "There were days we flew when other manned aircraft could not."
At Misawa, the Global Hawk achieved two milestones -- it was the first unmanned aircraft to be flown out of Japan and was also the first RQ-4 to fly an operational mission out of a joint-use civilian and military airfield.
"Combining and coordinating civilian Japanese airline traffic with military entities isn't typically done anywhere," the assistant director of operations for Detachment 1 said. "This proves that remotely-piloted and manned aircraft can operate on the same airfield together despite the variety of their missions or purpose."
After submitting a flight plan, the RPA was able to fly in the same manner as manned aircraft, without any additional restrictions. This was also the first known U.S. unmanned aircraft to perform a "file and fly" due to the close working relationship between the Japan Air Self-Defense Force's air traffic control team and the Global Hawk pilots. This proved the Global Hawk's ability to work with other aircraft in the vicinity, including Japan Airlines.
"While we were here, there were thousands of flights consisting of both JAL and military aircraft, with hundreds of thousands of passengers flying," the Det. 1 commander said. "We safely integrated with them daily without any incidents."
The Global Hawk's presence at Misawa AB has also proven to be successful at strengthening our ties with Japan.
"The Japanese were the most courteous, polite and helpful group of people I have worked with," the Det. 1 commander expressed. "We got to work with a coalition partner, and we're looking at possible operations in the future with them by combining mutual needs."
Due to popular demand, the RPA was featured at the annual Misawa Air Fest as a static display and garnered immense attention by both the public and Japanese government officials.
As for the future of the Global Hawk returning to Misawa - - one could say it's in the air.
"I believe the Global Hawk will probably come back to Misawa," the Det. 1 commander mused. "The 35th Fighter Wing was very happy to support our mission. We'd love to come back."