UAVs Canceled in Favor of Manned Aircraft

In an interesting turnabout, the Air Force is responding to a tightening budget by canceling the much vaunted RQ-4 Global Hawk program and extending the life of the manned U-2 it was intended to replace.  The decision reportedly affects the Block 30 Global Hawk, but not the Block 40 or Navy variants.

The Air Force wants to terminate the Block 30 Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude unmanned surveillance aircraft, breathing new life into the five-decade-old U-2 program…

The Air Force had been planning to buy 42 Block 30 aircraft. According to 2011 budget documents, the cost of each aircraft was around $215 million.

Northrop Grumman, the primary contractor for the Global Hawk, was quick to point out the shortcomings of the manned U-2.

The “disposable” nature of UAVs was once one of their great selling points.  It turns out that a $215M aircraft isn’t “disposable,” whether it has a person in it or not.