U-2 and Global Hawk

Le Bourget, France—For years, the Air Force has known it will give up some intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance capability when it retires the U-2 fleet. The U-2 can carry heavier sensors than the RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft and has a still-in-demand wet film capability. Now USAF is involved in an analysis of alternatives to consider what sensors it wants on the Global Hawk going forward, said officials with Global Hawk prime contractor Northrop Grumman here Monday at the Paris Air Show. Ed Walby, company executive, said Air Force officials have told him that they expect to complete phase one of the AOA by the end of the summer. The Global Hawk Block 30 aircraft configuration is “full,” said Walby; if USAF wants to change out sensors in a modular way, though, it should be able to, he said. “The reason for the Block 30 was to do what the U-2 can’t,” he added, noting that the RQ-4 can collect electronic intelligence and communications intelligence simultaneously, something the U-2 cannot. He acknowledged that “some of the U-2 sensors can see further than ours,” but that this shortcoming is made up for by the Global Hawk’s three-to-one advantage in loiter time. Moreover, some of the Global Hawk’s sensors can be changed simply by modifying the software, he said.