Military going back in time to save money

Russ Steele

I am reading Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base after Ellen read me some paragraphs when she was reading this very interesting book.  Area 51 played a major role in the development of the U-2 and A-12 the CIA version of the SR-71. Both of these highly sophisticate aircraft were tested at Area 51 and eventually operational versions were station at Beale AFB. The SR-71 is gone, but the venerable U-2 is still flying.

After Gary Powers was shot down over Russian in a CIA U-2, there was a concerted effort by the CIA to develop drones to remove the potential loss of pilots to enemy fire.  There were many U-2 pilots that did not survive and there loss was not reported in the news.  However, go high and go fast won the day and the SR-71 was developed for the overfly mission.  They Air Force need alternatives to inflexible satellites and started developing unmanned reconnaissance aircraft.

With a global communication infrastructure the military as developed a number of drone aircraft to do the high altitude surveillance mission, taking the pilot out of the loop, and out of the enemy hands if the platform were to crash. One of those unmanned platforms is the Global Hawk which is stationed at Beale AFB. Maybe not for long, according to this article in The Union.

WASHINGTON — Officials say Pentagon budget cuts will end the Air Force’s long-range surveillance drone known as the Global Hawk — based at Beale Air Force Base — but keep the Navy’s version of the unmanned aircraft. 

The 18th Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale oversees the aircraft.

Defense analyst Loren Thompson says defense officials have decided to rely on the less expensive, high-altitude U-2 spy plane — also stationed at Beale — which has a shorter range, but has been used in Asia, particularly to keep an eye on North Korea.

The U-2 has a pilot, which can be shot down and captured like Powers or killed like all the pilots that never returned, and no one knows there names. If a Global Hawk goes down, the worst we have is the situation like that which happened with the RQ-170 in Iraq, when it the vehicle landed in enemy territory.

Why does Obama’s cost cutters want to go back to the U-2 which was developed in the early 1950s, it is cheaper to operate. It has 60 years of amortized costs. But, it requires a pilot that can be shot down and captured.  The article continues:

Thompson, who is with the Virginia-based Lexington Institute, says the Global Hawk, which can stay airborne for 24 hours, would be more valuable as the Pentagon shifts focus to the vast Pacific region.

Well, I guess that if the focus is on the Pacific, then the Navy can handle that mission. The impact locally, is that with the loss of Global Hawk, there will be fewer Air Force personnel at Beale AFB. Fewer people that can visit Nevada County on the weekend. The loss of Global Hawk could have some economic impact on the regions economy.

You can read the rest of the article HERE.  By the way, I highly recommend reading Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base.  It raises questions, if this is what went on the the 50s, 60s and 70s, what super secret activity is going on there tonight?


About Russ Steele
Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.

4 Responses to Military going back in time to save money

  1. Dena says:

    There is already a SR71 replacement and I have seen it in flight. The official name is not known but it’s called “soap on a rope” because it leaves a trail of white puffs behind it. I saw it while I was at Kingsburg which is about 30 miles away from Fresno. Some mention of it has been made in aviation magazines but the government has had tight lips on this one so most of what we know is from observations like mine.

  2. RL Crabb says:

    Back when I was a teenager, I was hiking in the woods near Slate Creek Road when an SR71 came screaming over at treetop level. No one had ever heard of such a plane at the time, so it’s black Darth Vader appearance scared the bejesus out of me. I didn’t bother telling anyone because I knew they’d think I was crazy or lying.

  3. Russ says:

    Dean, In reading the Area 51 book we know what the CIA was capable of in the 50s, 60s and 70s, makes one wonder what are they are capable of doing now. We know that many of the UFO siting in the 50s, 60s, and 70’s were of the Oxcart, CIA’s A-12 that was flying higher and faster than any object on the planet, leading people who observed the craft in flight thought it was a UFO from some where in space. When in fact, it was from Area-51.

  4. Greg Goodknight says:

    Russ, the U-2 pilots have names. One or two even own hangars at the Grass Valley Airport 🙂

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