Global Hawks Return To Andersen

An RQ-4 Global Hawk, assigned to the 319th Operations Group, Det. 1, Andersen AFB, Guam, lands at Yokota AB, Japan, Aug. 5, 2019, for a rotational deployment. The movement maintains operations for Global Hawks during months of inclement weather endured at Andersen AFB, such as typhoons and other scenarios which have the potential to hinder readiness. Air Force photo by SrA. Juan Torres.

A squadron of RQ-4s that deployed to Yokota AB, Japan, from Andersen AFB, Guam during peak typhoon season has returned home.

The Global Hawks, overseen by the 319th Reconnaissance Wing at Grand Forks AFB, N.D., spent three months on mainland Japan during the late summer, when storms are most likely to disrupt theater-wide operations, according to an Oct. 21 Pacific Air Forces press release.

The RQ-4 detachment “integrated seamlessly with our team,” 374th Airlift Wing boss Col. Otis Jones said, adding that the Global Hawks’ presence at Yokota “helps us ensure the safety and security of Japan.”

PACAF had previously deployed RQ-4s to Misawa AB, Japan, in 2014, 2015, and 2018, and to Yokota in 2017, according to the release.

“Having alternate locations to execute our mission” during the typhoon season allowed 319th Operations Group Det. 1 to continue to fulfill US Indo-Pacific Command and US-Japan alliance requirements, said Lt. Col. Ben Craycraft, the detachment commander.

Guam prepares for typhoons year round—exercise Cope North was temporarily put on hold in February due to Typhoon Wutip—but most of the storms happen from June to December, according to the Andersen AFB safety guide.

Mainland Japan is a less frequent target for typhoons, though Yokota AB did sustain damage from Typhoon Trami in September 2018. To prepare for this year’s typhoon season, the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron cut down more than 1,000 damaged or dying trees, squadron commander Lt. Col. Bradly Bucholz told Air Force Magazine in an email.

Before Typhoon Hagibis hit Japan on Oct. 12, the 374th CES distributed 5,0000 sandbags, installed aqua dams at family housing towers, shut down tower elevators, and cleared 400 storm drains. So while that storm caused massive flooding and significant damage in other parts of Japan, Yokota escaped relatively unscathed with minor damage to the base.