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.)
The Department of the Air Force has selected Patrick Space Force Base, Fla., as the preferred location for Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM) headquarters—and hopes to start moving in by fall of next year.