Proposed Global Hawk Block 30 Cuts Nixed

The conference report for the Fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill tosses one of the Air Force’s more prominent proposed cuts to its force structure: the retirement of the RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 fleet. The Senate version of the bill acceded to the Air Force’s request to phase out these remotely piloted aircraft, but the Senate’s position did not win out in the conference negotiations with the House. Citing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance requirements from combatant commanders, the conference report states that the Air Force Secretary could obligate no funds in Fiscal 2013 “to retire, prepare to retire, or place in storage” any Global Hawk Block 30 aircraft. Instead, the Secretary “shall maintain the operational capability” of each Block 30 airplane out to Dec. 31, 2014, states the report. This includes the airframes already in the fleet and those that will enter the inventory by then. This amounts to some 18 aircraft, Air Force officials have stated. Lawmakers provided $155 million to keep these Global Hawks flying in Fiscal 2013, including $133 million for operations and maintenance and $22 million for personnel expenditures, according to the report.