Are the current MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) and HALE (High Altitude Long Endurance) drones already obsolete for electronic intelligence missions, even though many armies are barely starting their conversion to this tool? In any case, this is what the US Air Force seems to think, which, as part of the preparation of the Pentagon's 2022 budget, requested the cocooning of its HALE RQ-4 Global Hawk block 20 and block 30 drones, i.e. 24 aircraft, each having cost more than $ 130 million to American taxpayers, whereas they have only been in service since the beginning of the 2010s. Indeed, despite remarkable detection capacities, the Global Hawk now appears too vulnerable to the commanders of the United States. '' USAF to represent a sufficient operational interest in the face of adversaries equipped with anti-aircraft defenses and advanced jamming capabilities, to keep only the ten RQ-4 Block 40 delivered in 2013, an amount deemed satisfactory to ensure the surveillance of areas of lower intensity.
This is not the first time that the USAF has attempted to withdraw its RQ-4 Global Hawk drones of service. As soon as they entered service in 2012, the latter already requested their cocooning, preferring the capabilities offered by the U2 in the field of ISR intelligence. Initially, the RQ-4 was supposed to offer an economical alternative to U2 reconnaissance aircraft converted for these missions, even though the first flight of this device dates back to 1955. But the price of the drone has skyrocketed over time, like many American programs that took place between 1990 and 2020, going from 'a unit price estimated at $ 10 million in 1994, at $ 130 million in 2013. The costs of maintenance and implementation followed the same curve, to ultimately exceed those of U2, even though the absence of pilot made the aircraft less efficient for certain missions.
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