The Air Force’s tentative plan for abandoning replacement of J-Stars radar planes is beginning to come into focus. As I foreshadowed in a Forbes article last month, it hinges on drones — particularly the 11 “Block 40” Global Hawk drones equipped with ground-tracking radars. The Air Force wants to keep flying its decrepit J-Stars planes while gradually transitioning the mission to the drones. But there are a few problems with the plan. First, the existing fleet is so far gone that much of it will be in the repair shop at any given time. Second, it takes half a dozen Global Hawks to match the performance of one J-Stars plane, but the service has no plans to buy more. Third, drones are easy for enemies to shoot down, even when they’re not emitting constantly as the Block 40 does. Fourth, there’s no system to process the intelligence collected by drones once J-Stars onboard analysts go away. Finally, the new plan will cost a lot more than the old plan, and the Air Force has no slack in its budget. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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