Drones do not always reign supreme
January 26th, 2012
03:00 PM ET

Drones do not always reign supreme

One interesting note in the new Pentagon budget proposal is that while there is going to be an increase overall in spending on technologies like drones, surveillance capabilities and cyberwarfare, in one case the old school way of doing things won out. For the Air Force, it turns out, the 1950s-era U2 surveillance plane is being chosen over the Global Hawk drone. Why? It's cheaper to fly the manned planes, the Pentagon explained in a just released document explaining the new budget:

When we initially invested in the Global Hawk Block 30 program, it held the promise of providing essentially the same capability as the U-­‐2 manned aircraft for significantly less money to both buy and operate. As the program has matured, these cost savings have not materialized and, at best, we project the future cost of Global Hawk Block 30 operations to be comparable with the U-­‐2. In this five-­‐year budget, the cost of the Global Hawk program would significantly exceed the cost of the U-­‐2 so we cancelled Global Hawk Block 30 and extended the U-­‐2 program. Although this is a significant disappointment, our experience with Global Hawk Block 30 will help other Global Hawk programs like the Air Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS).

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Filed under: Air Force • Defense Spending • drones • Military
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. michaelfury


    January 27, 2012 at 7:16 am | Reply
  2. Sayan Majumdar

    High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) is a significant plus point of drones over manned aircraft with HALE drones capable of operating over 24-hours at a stretch.

    The United States Air Force (USAF) attitude is bit surprising I must say, perhaps they are bit nostalgic over their U-2 and newer TR-1 variants.


    January 27, 2012 at 6:56 am | Reply
  3. Brett

    I'm building a flight sim in my basement, I have a fleet of r/c aircraft and a case of cherry bombs, which way did they go?

    January 27, 2012 at 12:41 am | Reply
  4. Rob

    Maybe you've all got a point, but I have visions of fighting the next war by drone from my home computer – now, I'm 46,but I don't think that will matter at all because I have good computer and gaming skills 🙂 Mass produce them – "A drone for every household", I say (well, maybe one or two for my kids too).

    January 26, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Reply
  5. mipolitic

    well i do not know much about these drones other than that i read in the media. however with the unreliable thing i could only refer others to people that have had experience with these drones. but unfortunately for them they are no longer amongst the living because of the drones reliability.
    if there was an issue with the drones i would talk to the trader of the people of Canada as he gave russia info as a spy.
    the media has said little on this guy as they should but i have grave suspicions about this guy , and the depth of disgrace of this trader that turned against the Honourable Members of the Canadian military. as far as the drones go , i think they will go further than we could ever imagine.

    January 26, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Reply
    • C.Brown

      Wow could this comment have really been made by a person?

      January 27, 2012 at 11:04 am | Reply
    • Snoot

      "Trader"?????......................sweet jesus!

      January 27, 2012 at 11:36 am | Reply
    • Jon

      Haha. Best comment of the day! I didn't really understand much of it, but it sure did give me a laugh.

      January 27, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Reply
      • RangerBob

        I doubt Mipolitic understood his comments either.

        January 27, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  6. OPARA M.U


    January 26, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Reply
  7. Buddypup

    I wasnt in the "sandfbox" but I was in the swamp (Vietnam) in 1966. Someone in the 1950 made a great decision that fighter planes going forward didnt need guns. Missiles covered everything. That is until we got to Vietnam and we found that a cannon on an F-4 was really useful in close air-to-air combat with MIG 19s and MIG 21s. Also very effective against ground troops; especially those shooting at you. When the drones first came on the scene, the response was "great, now we dont have to send a manned aircraft against SAM sites". But now money enters the scene and the answer is "We'll just let those Air Force, Navy, and Marine jocks strap on a old airplane and fly into the teeth of all those nice SA-6, 7,... Pilots are much cheaper than a drone. " How about a mix. Yes, a mix would be more expensive but probably more effective in a heavy threat environment. And a lot cheaper if you count pilots.

    January 26, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Reply
  8. JohnnyNoName

    I was stationed in the 'sandbox' and to be honest, manned spy-aircraft we supported were far more superior in terms of intelligence gathering when compared to drones. Drones are unreliable. Period.

    January 26, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Reply

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