The Air Force intends to place six of the Global Hawk Block 30 remotely piloted aircraft that it doesn’t want to operate beyond Fiscal 2012 into non-recoverable storage and another 12 into recoverable storage, said Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz Tuesday. It’s possible those latter 12 could find new use, either with another domestic organization or with a foreign partner, he told the Senate Armed Services Committee in testimony. The Air Force has proposed terminating Global Hawk Block 30 surveillance operations in Fiscal 2013 and, instead, keeping its manned U-2 surveillance platforms flying for at least a decade longer. If Congress approves the plan, 18 of the 31 Block 30s in the current program of record would be in the inventory by then. Schwartz reiterated the Air Force’s case: The Block 30 is proving to be “not less expensive to operate” than the U-2 and its sensors need “significant improvements” to match the U-2’s capability. Another “key factor” was the joint requirements oversight council’s decision to decrease the “required number of orbits” for high-altitude surveillance—a change that “enabled the U-2 to cover the requirement,” he said. (Donley-Schwartz joint statement)
Three B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing flew over the Indo-Pacific alongside F-16s from the Japanese Air Self Defense Force recently, as part of a joint large force exercise. The mission began and ended in the continental U.S., as the bombers flew 31 hours and landed Jan. 11.