Yesterday, only hours before the anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, President Obama summoned the nation to a renewed campaign against Islamic terrorists in the Middle East. He proposes to defeat the terrorist group ISIS using a combination of U.S. air power and local ground forces. But there is a lot more to U.S. air power than smart bombs, and at the same time President Obama was sounding his clarion call, elsewhere in the administration moves were afoot to degrade a key feature of the nation’s airborne capabilities. Specifically, the Pentagon wants to convince Congress it should be allowed to retire the versatile U-2 spy plane even though its designated successor, the Global Hawk drone, won’t be able to offer equivalent imagery for several years. In fact, the Air Force says if it can’t get relief from sequestration, the Global Hawk may never be upgraded to U-2 levels of performance. This seems like a foolish move at a time when the U-2 fleet is operating at maximum capacity over Ukraine, Gaza, Iraq, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Afghanistan and other hot spots. It also looks non-compliant with legislation forbidding retirement of U-2 until equivalent capability had been fielded. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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