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Thursday, February 2, 2012

DoD Proposes Terminating Global Hawk Block 30s

The Department of Defense (DoD) proposed a series of budget cuts last week, including the slower procurement of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) and the cancellation of the Global Hawk Block 30 unmanned aircraft system (UAS).

In its “Defense Budget Priorities and Choices” document issued Jan. 26, the DoD said the military will be smaller and leaner, but will “remain agile, flexible, innovative and technologically advanced.” The DoD is requesting $525 billion for fiscal year 2013. The budget will be submitted to Congress on Feb. 13.

“Although our force will be smaller, it will employ both lessons from recent conflicts and new technologies developed to confront the most lethal and disruptive threats of the future,” according to the document.

The proposal includes the termination of Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk Block 30 high altitude, long endurance UAS program, opting instead to perform its missions with Lockheed Martin’s U-2, the platform it was designed to replace.

In a statement, Northrop Grumman said it is disappointed with the decision. Northrop Grumman said in a statement to Avionics Magazine it is "working with the Pentagon to assess alternatives to Block 30 termination that will ensure a more cost effective transition into production for the other programs that are based upon Global Hawk," including the Air Force's Block 40, NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance and the Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance programs.

In addition to the Block 30 cancellation, the proposal also states the military will slow its procurement of the long-delayed, multinational JSF. According to the proposal, the U.S. military remains committed to all three variants of the aircraft, but slower procurement will allow for the services to “complete more testing and make developmental changes to minimize concurrency issues before buying significant quantities.” According to the military, the JSF is more than two years behind its original deployment date of 2016 (Avionics, December 2011, page 14).

“We want to make sure before we go into full production that we are ready,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a briefing last week.

Among the other proposals:

  • The Joint Air-to-Ground Munition program will be significantly reduced but limited funding will remain to enable lower cost alternatives, such as the Hellfire.
  • The military will retire 27 aging C-5As, 65 of the oldest C-130s and divest 38 C-27s.
  • DoD will fund enough trained personnel, infrastructure and platforms to sustain 65 Air Force MQ-1/9 combat air patrols with a surge capacity of 85. The Predator was retained longer than previously planned, allowing for the slower purchase of the Reaper. The Army’s unmanned system, Gray Eagle, was preserved.
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