End of Global Hawk Block 30?

WASHINGTON, 1 Feb. 2012. Defense budget cuts are looming large, with U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) officials unveiling their “Defense Budget Priorities and Choices” report for 2012. The budget recommendations, as presented by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, include the termination of the Global Hawk Block 30 program, which directly affects prime contractor Northrop Grumman and its team of industry subcontractors. Northrop Grumman

The Pentagon’s maximum budget request for fiscal year 2013 is $525 billion, as well as another $88.4 billion for overseas contingency operations, much of which is slated to be spent in Afghanistan, compared to $531 billion and $115 billion, respectively, in the current fiscal year.

The 2013 request is expected to aid the DOD in saving $259 billion over the next five years, and achieving $487 billion in savings over the next decade. The budget is intended to re-shape the military to be more agile, quick, and flexible, especially given lessons learned in 10 years of war.

The report reads: “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).”

The request also calls: to eliminate two forward-based Army heavy brigades in Europe; to retire seven older Navy cruisers and two amphibious ships early; to eliminate six Air Force tactical air squadrons.

Conversely, the budget request calls for greater investment in: cyber warfare; technologies for an anti-access, aerial-denial scenario; the next-generation bomber; and modernization of the submarine fleet. The document also recommends slowed F-35 joint strike fighter procurement and a focus on completing F-35 testing and enabling developmental changes.

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