The U-2 and Korea

“We have said we will replace these [U-2 spy planes] with the Global Hawk [unmanned aerial vehicle], and we will,” Gen. Michael Moseley told Washington-based defense reporters Tuesday. The Global Hawk needs to be ready to take over the mission of spying on North Korea before the U-2s go away, however. The Air Force therefore will keep the signals intelligence-collecting U-2s operational until the combat commanders in the Pacific and on the Korean Peninsula feel the Sigint mission can be shifted to the Global Hawk. The Air Force has accelerated its plans to retire the manned U-2 fleet not just because it can fly the Global Hawk UAV for 30-hour missions, but also because the U-2s are breaking down. “When you’ve got leaks in the main fuel cell that is the feed tank to the engine … adjacent to wiring-bundle-chafing-and-arcing, you begin to paint a pretty interesting picture of an old airplane,” said Moseley, describing the recent need to temporarily ground the U-2 fleet.