PACOM, USKF Commanders Weigh in on ISR Cuts

While U-2 retirement would pose an immediate reduction in capability on the Korean Peninsula, US Forces Korea and US Pacific Command leaders are less concerned about proposed cuts to MQ- Reaper unmanned aircraft in their areas of responsibility. USFK Commander Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti gave a strong endorsement of the U-2, conceding he understood the Air Force’s need to cut cost, but noted the Dragon Lady provides a “unique capability that presently the Global Hawk does not provide.” He noted high altitude persistent intelligence gathering capabilities of the U-2 on the Korean Peninsula provide important threat and intelligence indicators that are critical to US and South Korean military operations on the Peninsula. Retiring the U-2 would be a “loss of intelligence and indicators that the Global Hawk can’t provide currently,” he said. Adm. Samuel Locklear, commander of US Pacific Command, said the reduction of MQ-9 Reapers in the out years is not as troubling due to the “contested environment” of Asia-Pacific airspace in nearly any conflict scenario. Scaparrotti agreed, noting he would need to establish air dominance before using MQ-9s in any scenario in Korea. (See also Global Hawk, Ready or Not.)