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The U.S. Air Force is “aggressively” pursuing a long-range, stealthy unmanned surveillance aircraft to go places its high-altitude Lockheed Martin U-2S and Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk cannot, according to the Pentagon’s director for defense intelligence warfighter support, Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan.
Speaking after an event in Washington on Dec. 1, Shanahan—who led the aerospace service’s operational intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) arm until August 2015—confirmed what has long been suspected: the Air Force already has, is developing, or is planning to develop, a “penetrating ISR” aircraft, supporting a Defense Department-wide push for “high-end” warfighting capabilities to counter those of Russia, China, North Korea and Iran.
Shanahan says U.S. bases in the Pacific—namely Kadena Air Base on the Japanese island of Okinawa; Andersen AFB, Guam; and those in the Philippines—are “threatened unlike they’ve ever been threatened since World War II.” He is referring to new road-mobile, silo, submarine and ship-based ballistic missiles introduced by China and North Korea, with Beijing’s weapons being the most threatening because of maneuvering and potentially hypersonic re-entry vehicles.