February 26, 2013

Defence industry lobbyists versus actual USAF needs

Filed under: Business, Government, Military, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:35

Strategy Page talks about the ongoing drama of the Global Hawk UAV and the US Air Force’s attempt to get rid of the weapon:

The U.S. Air Force recently disbanded a Global Hawk UAV squadron. The reserve unit contained 200 personnel and operated an aircraft the air force is getting rid of. This is in spite of political opposition to the move (helped along by the manufacturers many lobbyists).

This all began last year when the U.S. Air Force cancelled all orders for the Block 30 Global Hawk because of reliability issues. This renewed Department of Defense threats to cancel the Global Hawk program entirely. In response Northrop Grumman (the RQ-4 manufacturer) lobbyists made sure that key members of Congress knew where Global Hawk components were being built and how many jobs that added up to. Elected politicians pay attention to that. This move delayed the RQ-4 Block 30 until there was enough political support to convince Congress to order the air force to accept the Block 30 RQ-4s and shut up.

The air force can take some comfort in the fact that Northrop Grumman fixed some of the problems (some of which the manufacturer said don’t exist or didn’t matter). The Block 30 was supposed to be good to go but the air force was not convinced and decided that Block 30 was just more broken promises. Congress was also tired of all the feuding and being caught between Northrup lobbyists and exasperated air force generals. The lobbyists, as is usually the case, eventually won. But the air force is not required to pay for operating the Global Hawks, thus the disbanding of the Global Hawk unit.

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