Saw this on a facebook post and finally found the source. I'm surprised this isn't getting more attention than it has. The head of the U.S.
Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) General C. Robert Kehler, told a group of defense writers in Washington that the U.S. Military has a huge gap that
needed to be filled with an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft.
Kehler released a short statement:
“I personally believe that the nation will need an air ISR capability that is suited for hostile environments that we are likely to encounter in
future conflicts,” Kehler said. Kehler's concern is about what is called in defense circles “anti-access/area denial,” or A2/AD. Broadly
speaking, A2/AD refers to policies that limit the ability of the United States and its allies to move freely in the world, both politically and
The author goes on to say that for the last two decades the U.S. has been using satellites and drones to do it's ISR dirty work. To me this is sort
of a blow to Aurora believers (im not a believer in aurora). However, satellites are predictable, and can't stay on a target for extended periods of
time, like a UAV can. Some UAV's have been built specifically with A2/AD in mind (RQ-170). Others choose to stay high and stay on station for long
periods of time, hoping they aren't spotted.
We also have the aging U-2. Created by Skunk Works, the U-2 can fly above 70,000 feet and stay aloft for over half a day. However, with no stealth to
speak of, and a low cruising speed, they are easily spotted and could be shot down. As we all know, the SR-71 can fly around Mach 3.2, and fly higher
than the U-2. It's cobra like appearance gives it a naturally low RCS, along with the special RAM paint makes it one of the first stealth planes
built. It was also never shot down by enemy fire power.
Towards the end of the article gives us some hints and somewhat confirmations. First, There's these paragraphs:
There's widespread agreement among military analysts that Kehler is right about StratCom's need. China twice has successfully destroyed its own
satellites with ground-based missiles, indicating that ours could be at risk, too.
“We're going to need more ISR, not less,” said Steven Bucci, director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at the
Heritage Foundation, a think tank. “Strategically, I think it's a great idea. We've gone a long while without any kind of replacement for the
“I think what Gen. Kehler was most concerned about was the capabilities of other nations to disrupt our satellites,” she said. “We may need to
develop some new kind of platform.”
For the Aurora believers, the second and third paragraphs are the most damning. "We've come along way without a replacement" speaks volumes about
what the United States has been using for its ISR in the last two decades. Mind you these are not normal reporters. These are defense writers, the
very people that go behind the scenes of top secret black projects in order to report on them when they are ever declassified. One defense writer in
the group has an active TS clearance.
The last statement is the most exciting as well though. A new platform would finally give the Aurora believers something in the sky that the US can
admit to. General Kehler isn't clear and dry that the replacement needs to be the SR-71 from the past though:
Kehler hasn't specified exactly what he's looking for. “What those ISR capabilities look like ... and how much of it we will need remains to
be seen,” he said in his statement.
Bucci said he presumes that designers would start with something like the SR-71 and modernize it. The new plane would certainly employ stealth
technology, like the B-2 bomber.
His best guess is that a new spy plane would cost at least twice as much as an F-22, the Air Force's current fighter. Recent estimates on that
aircraft have ranged from $350 million to more than $400 million apiece, when development costs are included.
Well whatever happens with this, I'll be watching it closely. A new aircraft will never make it though washington right now in this political
nightmare. But perhaps they could dig up a few SR-71's and pull them from some museums and use them as an interim stop-gap until a new ISR platform
is fielded (Can we say LRS-B anyone???).
Or maybe they will just release the info on the fast-moving, record breaking, recon aircraft thats been spotted around the world already!