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Japan considers U.S. UAVs

Japan considers U.S. UAVs
The Air Force's unmanned aircraft Global Hawk, built by Northrup Grumman, has received the first federal certificate to operate routinely in U.S. national airspace. To go with story BC-FLIGHT2C-UAVS. (UPI/Northrop Grumman) | License Photo

TOKYO, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- Japan is considering whether to order four Northrop Grumman RQ-4B Global Hawk surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles.

Tokyo will reportedly decide by the end of the year on placing the order, Aviation Week reported Friday.

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According to program officials speaking not for attribution, the purchase is being considered to boost the country's aerial defense and is part of the National Defense Program Guideline, which will set out future military policy, scheduled to be released later this year.

The Japanese Defense Ministry sees the aircraft, which could later be upgraded, as reinforcing the country's anti-ballistic missile defenses. Japan's ABM concerns over the last several years have been heightened by North Korean missile tests.

A force of four RQ-4B Global Hawk UAVs would allow Japan's air force to mount continuous patrols, even with one UAV offline for maintenance.

The Japanese navy, however, prefers waiting to purchase an upgraded version of the Global Hawk, the MQ-4C, under development by Northrop Grumman for the U.S. Navy as a specific naval surveillance platform.

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