Re: U-2 retirement

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Message posted by Vahe Demirjian (Member since 04/28/2022) on August 10, 2023 at 8:50:32 PST:

Kudos to you mentioning that satellites aren't used to providing the same flexibility as the U-2 when it comes to reconnaissance due to their fixed orbits because even though Bill Sweetman noted that the annual operating cost of an SR-71 was only 7% of the cost of each reconnaissance satellite launch, he took note of the lack of opposition within the USAF to the SR-71's retirement in 1990 to justify his claim that a hypersonic follow-on to the SR-71 was being deployed and make his case that certain people in the USAF saw aerial reconnaissance as providing more flexibility than spy satellites despite the high maintenance cost of the Blackbird. That the cost of continuously maintaining an SR-71 airframe, including its engines, was very high compared to the U-2, was why the SR-71's return to service in 1995 lasted just three years, especially when taking into account the fact that the US Air Force in the late 1980 took an interest in the CIA- and NRO-sponsored Quartz/AARS program that ended up being canceled in late 1992 without being built.

I always wondered if the "RQ-180" designation for the unmanned Northrop Grumman strategic reconnaissance flying wing first reported in a December 2013 Aviation Week and Space Technology issue was as fictitious, and sure, we don't know the true designation for the UAV nicknamed the "White Bat", but it could be designated RQ-30 by the DoD. Given that the "RQ-180" fills the niche left vacant by the SR-71's retirement and which the Quartz/AARS or Lockheed Mach 5 Penetrator design studies would have occupied, did you express skepticism regarding Bill Sweetman's claims in the early 1990s about the US deploying a hypersonic replacement for the SR-71 due to the immaturity of hypersonic air-breathing engine technology?

In Reply to: U-2 retirement posted by Pinyon72 on August 10, 2023 at 4:48:32 PST:


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