Priced Out of a Mission

The Air Force’s Global Hawk Block 30 aircraft, one of several Global Hawk variants in the fleet, on Thursday became a victim of the Pentagon’s budget axe. Senior defense officials simultaneously said the service’s venerable U-2 will stay in the fleet for longer. The Block 30 variant of the combat-proven, remotely piloted Global Hawk did not deliver on its promise of being an affordable replacement for the manned U-2 for high-altitude intelligence gathering, they said in justifying its cancellation. “The Block 30 priced itself out of” its mission, said Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter. “So we will continue to use the U-2. That’s a disappointment to us.” The Air Force had anticipated phasing out its U-2s starting in mid decade once the Block 30 fleet of 31 planned airframes was ready to perform the same type of intelligence collection. In a release, Global Hawk manufacturer Northrop Grumman said it was “disappointed” with the decision and would work with defense officials “to assess alternatives to program termination.” Flying High, from the forthcoming February issue of Air Force Magazine, discusses the relationship between the U-2 and Global Hawk. (Pentagon budget document) (Carter-Winnefeld transcript)