HASC Tacair Panel Blocks Global Hawk Retirements

The House Armed Services Committee’s tactical air and land forces panel has moved to stop the Air Force from retiring its RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 remotely piloted aircraft next fiscal year. Language included in the panel chairman’s mark-up of the Pentagon’s Fiscal 2013 budget request bars the Air Force from using any of the fiscal year’s funds “to retire, prepare to retire, or place in storage” any Block 30 aircraft. Released on Thursday, April 26, in preparation for Friday’s mark-up hearing, the mark also stipulates that the Air Force “shall maintain the operational capability of each” Block 30 airplane through at least the end of 2014. This includes those already in the inventory and those delivered during this period. So that there is the manpower to maintain these Block 30s, the HASC personnel panel’s chairman’s mark, released on April 25, retained 560 of the 3,900 Active Duty billets that the Air Force has proposed cutting from its end strength. The Block 30 variant was designed to replace the U-2 for high-altitude surveillance. However, the Air Force says it’s proving to be too expensive to operate. (Tacair panel mark-up; caution, large-sized file.)