Cost is Not the Driving Issue

The quality of the imagery products and not relative operating costs is the main reason the Air Force wants to divest its RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 fleet in favor of keeping U-2 surveillance airplanes in service for longer, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told lawmakers last week. “The sensor products . . . are not as good on the Global Hawk as they are on the U-2, and every one of our collection managers and our combatant commands will tell you that,” he told the House Appropriations Committee’s defense panel on May 9. “The combatant commanders “prefer a U-2 product in many mission areas over the Global Hawk,” said Welsh. “The sensor ranges are longer on the U-2,” which is “beneficial, particularly” when operating “near a border that you can’t cross” in order to overfly the target areas, he said. “Those were the big things that drove our assessment,” said Welsh. The Air Force wanted to divest the Global Hawk Block 30s in Fiscal 2013, but Congress mandated that they stay in service through 2014. Some lawmakers continue to press the Air Force to keep them for even longer. (See also Implementation Plan Details Force Structure Changes.) (Welsh’s prepared remarks)