Spy vs Spy; Hagel-style

Chuck Hagel’s announcement earlier this week of proposed platform cuts for the US Air Force and army will shake up Washington’s military machine in a big way – if the Department of Defense’s fiscal year 2015 proposal survives first contact with Congress.

We’ve reported before about how the ground-attack-specialised A-10 could be flying towards a cost-saving fleet retirement post-Afghanistan, and also about how the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior could be retired without the need for an expensive Armed Aerial Scout procurement; ie use the Apache.

But one of the big battles now about to play out concerns the USAF’s delivery of high-altitude surveillance. The service last year detailed plans to halt the use of its Block 30 Global Hawks, as the manned U-2 (USAF image of the rivals below) could do the job at a lower operating cost. But now Hagel says that the 50-year-old type is for the chop, as the air force has found a way of making the Global Hawk more affordable to fly.

U-2 Global Hawk

We’ll have a story appearing on Flightglobal soon about a new Lockheed effort to save the “Dragon Lady”; we can expect this one to get interesting.

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13 Responses to Spy vs Spy; Hagel-style

  1. puppethead 26 February, 2014 at 11:06 pm #

    Even with a SATCOM dorsal pod the Dragon Lady will always be far sexier than an encephalitic RQ-4! :) Not to mention more flexible, more responsive, more damage-tolerant…

    • DensityDuck 11 March, 2014 at 2:27 pm #

      If you’re looking for aesthetics, buy a car. The point of aerospace hardware is to do the job.

      • puppethead 15 March, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

        Oh, I’m quite aware that aesthetics aren’t everything (note the rest of my original post…). But I’m also convinced that the number one reason Boeing lost the JSF contest is that neither the US military nor the rest of the free world would ever stump up the $billions for something that looked like the X-32. They wanted wingèd equivalents of Detroit’s finest muscle cars, not something that looked like it should be vacuuming the streets – taxpayers need convincing that their governments are buying the right tool for the job. Particularly in aerospace the old maxim “if it looks right it is right” applies more often than not – and I’ve never been convinced that sticking the RQ-4′s engine inlet behind the SATCOM dome is the best thing for the engine.

  2. jetcal1 27 February, 2014 at 6:15 pm #

    “if the Department of Defense’s fiscal year 2015 proposal survives first contact with Congress”
    - Let the porkfest begin! If there are contributions to be made to the campaign fund or jobs for the district, no congressman will allow the needs of National Defense to stand in the way!

  3. archie 27 February, 2014 at 9:47 pm #

    Has anyone got any idea what jetcal1 is talking about?. Could someone please translate it into English

    • Craig Hoyle 28 February, 2014 at 10:04 am #

      I believe jetcal1 was making a very legitimate point about the parochial interests of many in Congress, out to protect their local industries and ensure funding and votes for themselves. Nothing like that happens here in the UK of course, ahem.

      • Glen 12 March, 2014 at 8:28 pm #

        He means that if there jobs to be saved then the congressmen/woman will fight tooth and nail to save them and defence needs come a very poor second place.

    • jetcal1 14 March, 2014 at 8:51 pm #

      I must say the people who answered your question are far less cynical. I firmly believe that if a valid reason exists to procure or keep something fielded, many of our elected officials will kill it if the alternative means financial contributions or jobs in their district. Even if it’s for something not as effective. It’s about the money and not effective systems or defense.

  4. RunningBear 27 February, 2014 at 11:29 pm #

    Un-man the U2S and keep on flying. :)

    The “manned” systems can be replaced with additional fuel capacity to help the CG trim change.

    The comm. node is incredibly important to the ground troops link to their CAS a/c, etc.

    The U2 only has a 12 hr. range vs.the 28 hr. range of the RQ-4 block 30/ 40?

  5. Driver658 5 March, 2014 at 3:27 am #

    Sad day when SECDEF wants to kill ‘old’ airplanes, yet doesn’t know the age of his own assets. The U-2s flying today were built during the same time as the F-117, B-1, and B-2. The ‘old’ U-2s (built in 1957) were all retired 3 decades ago.

  6. Dewey 12 March, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

    … and which (GH or U2) will fair better in an A2/AD environment?

    • K.B. 16 March, 2014 at 7:50 pm #

      The advantage of the U-2 is its independence from (SAT-)COM and its resistance against ECM. Look at the RQ-170.
      On the other side you do not lose a pilot, if a GH will be shot down. A potential crisis will escalate more, if a pilot is dead.

      But neither the U-2 nor the GH is really build to operate in under A2/AD-conditions. They will both stay out of the contested area.

  7. pat 24 March, 2014 at 8:32 am #

    U-2 advantages: Higher ceiling, heavier payload, higher quality imaging capability, better ECCM suite (i.e: it has one), no dependence on SATCOM for controlled flight, significantly fewer major mishaps when compared to Global Hawk.

    Global Hawk advantages: Longer flight time (24 vs 12 hours), no pilot…..and that’s it.

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