Monsoon Conditions In Guam Send Global Hawks To Okinawa

A drier perch for fancy spy drones.

Global Hawk In Guam

Global Hawk In Guam

Pictured here in the rain is an RQ-4 Global Hawk. It must take some severe weather to keep it from flying.Nichelle Anderson, U.S. Air Force, via Wikimedia Commons

The Global Hawk is America's fanciest surveillance drone. Built for heights of up to 60,000 feet, the Global Hawk can scan an entire battlefield below with radar, infrared and regular cameras, and tools to pick up on electronic communications. Remotely piloted, the Global Hawk can change crews in the middle of its flights and multiple times, which is good, because it can fly for up to 34 hours continuously. Unless, of course, there's inclement weather.

Stars and Stripes recently published a report about conditions affecting the drones:

Bad weather over Guam has rerouted two U.S. Global Hawk unmanned surveillance aircraft to Okinawa. The RQ-4 drones — which can fly up to 60,000 feet — landed Monday evening at Kadena Air Base, Japanese media reports said. The aircraft support intelligence-gathering operations throughout the Pacific, U.S. officials have said. It’s unclear how long the Global Hawks, based at Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base, will remain on the island, said Air Force Master Sgt. Jason Edwards, an Air Force spokesman. The Air Force did not immediately have information about whether special equipment or personnel would be needed there to relaunch the aircraft, he said.

While the weather appeared calm for August 1st, when the Global Hawks were expected to land on Guam, there are storms expected all this week. The National Weather Service issued a warning of "Monsoonal Conditions," and there are gale conditions in the nearby Marianas islands.

Once in the air, aerospace defense corporation Northrop Grumman notes that the Global Hawk's "cloud-penetrating, day or night, sensor package can image an area the size of the U.S. state of Illinois (40,000 nautical square miles) in just 24 hours." But it needs to be in the air first, and it looks like the risks of taking off in stormy weather are too great for a plane with a cost in the tens of millions of dollars.