[UPDATED with Lt. Gen. James comment] WASHINGTON: Northrop Grumman is in talks with the the Air Force to keep the service’s 18 “Block 30″ Global Hawks flying through at least September 2013, Breaking Defense has learned. That’s a win for Northrop and its backers in Congress over Air Force budgeteers who wanted to ground the long-range drones.
The service’s 2013 budget plan would have mothballed the Block 30 variant of the Global Hawk to save money, arguing that the venerable U-2 spyplane could better meet theater commanders’ needs for reconnaissance. (Other Global Hawk variants with different capabilities, Block 20 and Block 40, were never in question). That idea was resoundingly rejected by Congress — and quietly questioned by some in the military who appreciated the Block 30′s capabilities, including much longer flight times than any manned aircraft could endure. So, in his confirmation hearings, new Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told Senators that the drones would continue to operate. But Northrop Grumman’s existing contract to support Block 30 operations around the world was set to expire at the end of this month. Keep reading →
A year has passed since Congress passed and President Obama signed into law the Budget Control Act-the legislation mandating sequestration. Funding cuts that once seemed politically remote now loom large for leaders increasingly anxious about the impact $1.2 trillion in automatic budget reductions will have upon their respective districts and states. An estimated two million jobs at risk is a possibility no lawmaker can ignore.
Sequestration threatens the country’s ability to allow those in uniform to do their jobs. To understand what it means in real terms, look at the Air Force. Over the past decade, the service has been hit with numerous cuts and now the 2013 budget risks pushing airmen over the brink. There comes a point when people simply cannot do more with less. Unless Congress passes a sustainable and viable alternative to the Budget Control Act, challenges arising in the Air Force will be mirrored throughout the Army, Navy and Marine Corps — curtailing the number of key policy options upon which our nation’s leaders depend. Keep reading →
THE PENTAGON: The Air Force is attempting to buy and build its way out of the hole it created by canceling the latest variant of the Global Hawk program, service officials said today.
Service officials want to pour billions into new unmanned aircraft and revamp its current intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance fleet as part of its $154.2 billion budget request for fiscal 2013 sent to Capitol Hill today. Service officials are hoping that investment will close the capabilities gap created by the termination of the Block 30 version of the Global Hawk. Service officials opted to kill the venerable ISR drone as a way to meet a $54 billion cost-cutting goal set by the White House earlier this year. Keep reading →
UPDATED WASHINGTON: The Global Hawk is dead. Long live the Global Hawk.
Pentagon and service leaders are rumored to be considering reducing or canceling the current version of the venerable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance drone. The Block 30 Global Hawk variant will be replaced with the Cold War-era U-2 spy planes. The decision to cut or cancel purchases of the last 10 Block 30s will be part of the Air Force’s upcoming fiscal 2013 budget proposal, according to Loren Thompson, a consultant and defense analyst. But with the fate of the Block 30 variant sealed, the Air Force will reportedly move ahead with a newer variant of the aerial drone. Keep reading →