South Korea has reportedly established a new airforce unit that will be responsible for the operations of the key reconnaissance assets, including RQ-4 Global Hawk aircraft.

The Korea Herald has quoted officials as saying that this move is expected to increase the capabilities of the country to monitor threats from North Korea and other countries.

The first reconnaissance wing, 39th Reconnaissance Wing, is located at an airbase in Chungju. It will be able to operate five types of reconnaissance assets of the airforce.

According to the military, it will operate the advanced unmanned Global Hawk aircraft, RF-16 and RC-800 Geumgang reconnaissance aircraft, and a medium-altitude unmanned aircraft system.

Until now, assets were overseen by the group allocated to the 19th Fighter Wing. The military later increased the group’s status and made it a separate body.

The country purchased four RQ-4 Block 30 Global Hawk Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) and is currently working to deploy the aircraft.

In 2019, US State Department approved a possible sale of logistics support services for South Korea’s RQ-4 Block 30 RPA.

South Korea also requested to buy programme management, training for maintenance, logistics and communications personnel, as well as depot and organisational level maintenance.

Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) chief of staff gen Lee Seong-yong said: “The establishment of the wing is expected to help boost our key defence capabilities required for the transition of the wartime operational control, and serves as a major achievement of our push for defence reform.”

In 2015, Northrop Grumman was awarded a contract to deliver RQ-4 Global Hawk to the ROKAF.