The U.S. is poised to start flying a spy plane near the Demilitarized Zone to acquire further intelligence on North Korea, a report said.
In an article dated Monday, the Stars and Stripes, a U.S. military newspaper, quoted U.S. Air Force officials as saying the U.S. was negotiating with South Korea to fly Global Hawk spy aircraft near the DMZ and the deal was “very close” to being done.
“Global Hawk will likely fly over land in Korea as soon as agreements have been solidified to do that,” Lt. Col. David Gerhardt of the U.S. Air Force was quoted as saying.
Manufactured by U.S. defense contractor Northrop Grumman, the Global Hawk has been deployed in U.S. operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The unmanned spy drone can fly at an altitude of about 20 kilometers for up to 40 hours, with a line of sight to targets some 550 kilometers away.
The paper said the line of sight from a Global Hawk flying near the DMZ would extend beyond the Yalu River on the border between North Korea and China.
South Korean military and defense procurement officials declined to comment on the report.
The news comes days after South Korea unveiled its plan to fly an indigenous unmanned spy drone for the first time in November. An official had said the prohibitive cost of Global Hawks may force South Korea to instead deploy its own unmanned aircraft.
The Pentagon earlier this year pegged the procurement cost of a Global Hawk, factoring in research and development costs, at $173.3 million per aircraft.