Mar 31, 2014

Scrapping U-2 Won't Save As Much As Touted

Retiring all of its U-2 spy planes and replacing them with Global Hawk UAVs won’t save as much money as the US Air Force had said it would, since the unmanned systems will need upgrades to handle the mission, according to experts and service data.
To upgrade Northrop Grumman’s Block 30 Global Hawk, the Air Force intends to invest about $1.77 billion over the next 10 years. About $500 million of that is marked for a universal payload adapter that would allow U-2 sensors to be attached to the RQ-4 Global Hawk.
The Pentagon’s fiscal 2015 budget proposal submitted this month recommends retiring the U-2 fleet, which the Air Force has said will save about $2.2 billion. Subtract the $1.77 billion needed to upgrade the Global Hawk, and the savings drop to only $430 million.
The two aircraft perform a similar high-altitude ISR mission. But as recently as February, service leaders argued that the Global Hawk does not meet the full capabilities of the U-2 at a higher cost, and that politics was behind the push to keep the Global Hawk.

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