I know that a lot of lawmakers are pissed at the USAF for buying aircraft and subsequently storing them due to budgetary realignment and less than satisfactory operational performance, which is more or less an omission of a total waste of funds. Although the House Armed Services Committee seems to be drawing the line on this practice at the Block 30 Global Hawk, as they are electing to fund it’s operation going forward. I know the USAF says the U-2 does the Block 30 Global Hawk’s job better and more efficiently, but seeing that there is pretty much a consensus for needing more strategic ISR platforms, utilizing the abandoned Block 30 Global Hawks could not hurt.
If the complexity of the Block 30′s assigned missions are too much for the system to handle efficiently, than just stick a Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) on-board and other beyond line of sight communications systems and let them act as an airborne data-fusion platform and communications relay alone. Having an active net over a battle space that can translate the various languages coming from the variety of data-link modems and terminals the DoD has fielded is a very important job, and a high-altitude player like the RQ-4 is a perfect system to employ such a capability. Northrop Grumman engineers already know this and have tested the Block 30 RQ-4/BACN combo in the EQ-4B configuration. Even the Navy’s Global Hawk Block 40 “Broad-Area Maritime Surveillance” aircraft, otherwise known as BAMS, will have BACN built-in, along with pretty much everything and “the kitchen sink” of ISR capabilities. This is great, but a single BAMS aircraft can be in only one place at one time, why not put it’s little brother to work on less dynamic mission sets such as the humble yet vitally important BACN role alone? It just seems ridiculous to me that we purchase these assets and decide not to use them, even if we do so in a lesser role or at a lower frequency.
All you need to know about the Global Hawk Block 40 BAMS: