Global Hawk, Ready or Not

The Air Force’s Fiscal 2015 budget proposal calls for all U-2s to be retired in fiscal year ’16, whether the Global Hawk Block 30 has reached technical “parity” with it or not, Maj. Gen. James Jones, USAF’s top planner, said Tuesday. Previously, Air Force leaders have said the transition would happen only when parity was achieved. Speaking with reporters at the Pentagon, Jones said the U-2 retirement will save $2.2 billion over the Future Years Defense Program, but getting the Global Hawk fitted with a common payload adapter and other improvements necessary to get it up to par with the U-2 will cost $1.77 billion. “It was a close call,” Jones said of the decision to drop the U-2, but there was an $8,000 per hour difference in operating costs, and that just made the difference in the decision to keep one but not the other, he said. Asked about the deficiency in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance that will result from the lag, Jones said USAF’s plan offers “the least risk out of a number of bad options.”