Wow, so it looks like we’re seeing the first of the upcoming budget cuts for the Air Force trickle out. The AP is reporting that the Air Force is cancelling the RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude spy drone opting instead to keep the legendary U-2 Dragon Lady in service (for now, anyway)! Yup, the 50-year old U-2 is replacing its replacement for the second time. Remember, it the U-2 outlasted the SR-71 Blackbird, a plane also meant to replace it.
Rather than fight through the Block 30 version of the jet’s teething problems, service officials are moving to can the Air Force’s version of the Northrop Grumman-made RQ-4, a jet the Navy also flies.
Officials say Pentagon budget cuts will end the Air Force’s long-range surveillance drone known as the Global Hawk, but keep the Navy’s version of the unmanned aircraft.
Defense analyst Loren Thompson says defense officials have decided to rely on the less expensive, high-altitude U-2 spy plane, which has a shorter range but has been used in Asia, particularly to keep an eye on North Korea.
Thompson, who is with the Virginia-based Lexington Institute, says the Global Hawk, which can stay airborne for 24 hours, would be more valuable as the Pentagon shifts focus to the vast Pacific region.
Officials say that while Air Force Block 30 version is being cut, the Navy’s variant could be used by the Air Force. Global Hawks are made by Northrop Grumman Corp.
Just last week we ran a post asking about last summer’s mysterious crash of a Global Hawk just inside Pakistan. I wonder if Air Force and Pentagon officials are simply giving up on the older, problem laden UAV program in favor of pushing money into newer, more survivable drones that incorporate lessons learned from Global Hawk into their designs.
Speaking of budget cuts, check out what’s going on with Army vehicles.
Aol Defense is reporting that the air service will keep buying the Block 40 version of the Global Hawk while getting rid of the Block 30 jets.