Discussion of the Air Force retiring the famed U-2 spy plane took a change in direction when the 2018 fiscal year budget did not have a retirement date for the aircraft.

A U-2 Dragon Lady pilot prepares to take off during exercise Northern Edge 17 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, May 11, 2017. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Schultze, US Air Force

“There is not a retirement date for the U-2 in this budget,” Maj. Gen. James Martin, the Air Force’s deputy assistant secretary for budget, said during a budget briefing at the Pentagon. “We plan to keep that platform well into the future.”

“It’s a capability that we need and we also need the capacity as well,” Martin said.

Budget uncertainty in previous years played a role in recent recommendations to retire the U-2, the general said. But “the world changed in August 2014,” he said, in an apparent reference to the start of the U.S. military campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. – DoDBuzz

There had been recommendations to retire the U-2 Dragon Lady and use the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone for high altitude surveillance to save money. With the recent increase in defense spending for 2017 the Air Force has decided they can keep the U-2 and use it in conjunction with the Global Hawk.

Featured image of a U-2 Dragon Lady from Beale Air Force Base, California, preparing to land at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland by Senior Airman Bobby Cummings, US Air Force