If you guessed the U-2 – formerly the TR-1 – give yourself a pat on the back.
Yes, you read that correctly. Although I don’t remember hearing much about it at the time, buried in the USAF’s fleet retirement proposals back in February was a proposal to retire the U-2 along with the A-10. The stated reason was that RPV’s could now perform the mission at an acceptable cost.
Color me a bit skeptical. In prior years, the USAF had stated outright that even our latest RPVs couldn’t perform that mission an affordable cost. And despite recent improvements in the efficiency of RPV operations (and thus lower operating costs), not long ago the USAF also said that RPVs still don’t provide equivalent SIGINT and IMINT capabilities to those provided by the U-2. I’m guessing that’s still the case today.
As I understand it, RPVs today still can’t carry some of the U-2’s sensor packages – so either the platforms or their sensors will have to be substantially “improved” to do so. And we all know that improvement will be a “snap”, and will be really cheap and quick too.
Oh, and the USAF is also scaling back it’s proposed RPV fleet, too.
Congress appears to have put the kibosh on this proposal for now. For once, maybe we owe Congress a bit of thanks.
Hey, I realize the USAF needs to modernize. But throwing the baby out with the bath water has always seemed to me to be, well, kinda stupid. And regarding the U2, IMO it looks like exactly that was what the USAF was proposing.
Must be something in the water that the Air Staff drinks these days. Maybe the old Cold War TAC insult is becoming apropos again: “Hell, those boys done been SACumcized – and forgot how to fight a war!”