U-2 Spy Play Not Ready for Retirement

Posted October 15, 2014 at 5:10am

CQ Roll Call reports that “the iconic U-2 spy plane, with its long, sagging wings and a reputation for being challenging to fly and harder to land, is one of the oldest aircraft in the U.S. fleet, with a storied history to match: The downing of Francis Gary Powers is a touchstone moment in the Cold War, and many a UFO rumor can be attributed to the plane’s early flight tests at the government’s secret Area 51 in the Nevada desert.”  

“One year before of the 60th anniversary of its first flight in 1955, the U-2 is on the chopping block, where it has been many times before. President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2015 budget called for its retirement to begin in 2016, and while one of the fiscal 2015 defense spending and authorization bills would block the move, others do not explicitly do so.”  

“Yet the U-2 has avoided death time and again, owing to its versatility, its reliability, its low operating cost and the inability of rival airborne surveillance systems to replace what it offers. Only two budgets ago, the Obama administration proposed retiring the Global Hawk Block 30 reconnaissance drone, citing the U-2’s capabilities for the same job; this year, it has taken the opposite stance, saying Global Hawk advancements have made the U-2 less essential.”