Northrop Grumman has been making a major push in Japan for its RQ-4 Global Hawk in an effort to have procurement of such unmanned air vehicles included in the country's next five-year plan.
Japanese military and defence officials were able to see a full-scale model of the Global Hawk on display in Tokyo on 24-25 March. Japan was the last stop in an Asia-Pacific tour that also saw the Global Hawk model displayed in Australia, Hawaii, Guam and Singapore.
Japan is interested in the Global Hawk, but can the USA sell it? Photo: Northrop Grumman
Japan's defence establishment has been studying the Global Hawk for several years and Northrop's latest marketing push comes as it works to formulate its five-year fiscal plan for 2011-15.
If Japan orders the Global Hawk it would need to get US government export approval.
"Capable of flying well above all civil air traffic at altitudes of up to 60,000ft [18,300m] for the more than 32h at a time, Global Hawk is a suitable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance asset for Japan," says Curt Orchard, Northrop Grumman international vice-president for Japan.
Japan has a need for greater intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability because it has three potentially hostile neighbours: China, North Korea and Russia.
Tokyo and Beijing have territorial disputes over outlying islands and sea borders, while Pyongyang continues to test missiles - some of which have flown over Japan - and Moscow occupies the Kuril islands, some of which it annexed from Japan in the last days of the Second World War.
Northrop says the Global Hawk "is the only unmanned air system to receive both US Air Force and US Federal Aviation Administration certificate of authority allowing routine operation in civil air space."
The Global Hawk's range of 16,100km (10,000nm) means a single mission can span north-east and South-East Asia, it says.