The latest version of the Air Force's Global Hawk unmanned surveillance jet is not ready for prime time, reports John Bennett in The Hill newspaper. Based on a DoD ODT&E report, Bennett's story doesn't make it sound like these things were falling out of the sky, but it does appear they're performing well short of what the Air Force needs.
The report found that the drones provided only about 40 percent of “requested intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) coverage when used at low operational tempos.”So the newest Global Hawks have poor availability, defective sensor systems, and, perhaps most interestingly, "immature training, tactics, techniques and procedures." What could that mean -- might airmen not know how to take full advantage of what their UAVs can do?
A subsystem fitted onto the Block 30s that is designed to gather intelligence signals, such as communications or electronic signals given off from radioactive events, “provides ... limited operational utility” at detecting, identifying and locating some radar and communications signals, the report said.
That same system — due to “technical performance deficiencies and immature training, tactics, techniques and procedures” — fails to provide “actionable” signals on intelligence, the testing shop found.
For those and other reasons, Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s director of operational testing and evaluation, deemed the Block 30 variant “not operationally suitable.”
Whatever the reason, Bennett's story, with its Hill-focused audience, could force Congress to confront a reality that others in the defense game have long known about, he writes:
The Global Hawk program has battled cost increases and technical issues for years, but has avoided scorn from a large number of lawmakers.
In the study, Gilmore concluded the drone failed to give war fighters what they need from it the most: a high-flying platform that can gather ISR data for extended periods of time.
“Global Hawk long endurance flights do not routinely provide persistent ISR coverage due to low air vehicle reliability,” the Gilmore-signed report states.