WASHINGTON (AP) — The U-2 spy plane outlasted the Cold War and outlived its successor.

But defense cuts now threaten to knock the high-flying reconnaissance aircraft from the sky.

The planes can soar to an altitude of 70,000 feet, collect intelligence on North Korea and Russia, and quickly send the data to U.S. commanders.

It's a critical capability — given North Korea's unpredictable leader, Kim Jong Un (kim jawng oon), and Russia's emboldened president, Vladimir Putin (POO'-tihn)

The Air Force wants to gradually retire the fleet of 32 spy planes, and says the unmanned aerial vehicle Global Hawk can do the job.

The Pentagon can't afford both in a time of smaller budgets.

Skeptical lawmakers have challenged the proposal to ground the U-2. Congress begins work on a defense bill next week.