Reading into the Block 30 Decision

Could the Air Force’s decision to divest its brand-new fleet of Global Hawk Block 30 remotely piloted aircraft in Fiscal 2013 be the first step toward a partial shift in the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance mission from the Air Force to the Navy? That’s a question one defense analyst is posing. After all, the Navy is “significantly increasing its investment in two major surveillance aircraft . . . moving ahead with major purchases of about 115 P-8 maritime radar surveillance [air]planes and 68 or more unmanned Broad Area Maritime Surveillance [air]craft derived from Global Hawk,” wrote Rebecca Grant, president of IRIS Independent Research, in a new white paper issued on May 1. On the other hand, the Air Force is “gutting its capabilities for long-endurance surveillance,” she wrote. Grant wonders why. “Maybe the Air Force can step back from being the primary ISR provider, but we don’t see a new joint concept of [operations] yet to provide a replacement for that,” she stated during a presentation on this topic at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., that same day.