The Japanese Ministry of Defense has announced the selection of Northrop Grumman’s E-2D Advanced Hawkeye and RQ-4B Global Hawk to meet its military modernization requirements. The country has also decided to procure the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey.
The Japanese MOD made the announcements in a series of notices accompanying the release of its fiscal year 2015 budget request. The notices were posted Nov. 21.
Northrop’s E-2D was selected over Boeing’s 737 AEW&C offer for an airborne warning and control platform. The MOD notice said the E-2D rated higher in terms of function and performance, cost and logistics.
The Global Hawk was the preferred platform to meet the country’s high-altitude remotely piloted aircraft requirement, beating the extended-range MQ-9 Guardian aircraft proposed by General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems Inc. The V-22 was the only tiltrotor aircraft considered for Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force.
Both the Air Force and NASA are fairly open about their Global Hawk programs so there are plenty of great photos and videos online (see below). The aircraft were built for unarmed surveillance missions, and a few early-model Air Force RQ-4s were transferred to NASA.
The space agency has two Global Hawks, produced by defense firm Northrop Grumman for DARPA originally. Right now, the aircraft are performing hurricane monitoring missions from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Their home base is in California.
As if to make them look more friendly and peaceful than the Air Force Global Hawk “drones,” the NASA aircraft are painted white.
The space agency posted this video of Global Hawk 871 taking off from Wallops in September 2013. Notice the chase car following behind. The aircraft’s sibling is GH 872.
The remotely piloted aircraft, as the Air Force insists on calling them, can fly up to 60,000 feet for 22-30 hours, meaning they can fly above the hurricane.
Oddly, Air Force Global Hawks historically have had poor mission availability rates in the Pacific region primarily because of local thunderstorms and typhoons. The reason is, if the aircraft encounter adverse weather they will turn around and come back because the pilot has limited situational awareness when it comes to weather. The pilot in the cockpit cannot see and avoid thunderstorms, and so missions are scrubbed if there is a chance of encountering adverse weather along the way.
NASA missions, I’m sure, are designed around a particular weather event, so the pilot would known exactly how long he/she has to reach the correct altitude.
From 2015-2016, the Air Force is adding new adverse weather capabilities to the RQ-4B, primarily a weather radar and anti-icing .