A reference to the “divestiture” of the U-2 in Fiscal Year 2026, that was contained in last year’s budget request, is missing from the Fiscal Year 2023 request that has just been published. The request envisages continued spending on Dragon Lady upgrades and supportability through Fiscal Year 2027. The Pentagon’s fiscal year begins in the October before the new calendar year.
The request explains that the U-2S remains a “high demand/low density aircraft equipped with state-of-the-art sensor and data link systems providing essential ISR to the combatant commands, joint and combined force, and the intelligence community”.
Over the five fiscal years from 2023 to 2027, the Air Force is proposing to spend $248 million on upgrades; $65 million on RDT&E, and $14.5 million on spare parts. The upgrades include
– the ASARS 2B/C AESA radar
– the SIGINT system (currently ASIP, but with GHOST to come)
– enhancements to the focal planes and optics of SYERS multispectral sensor
– further development of the data links including the tactical Link 16, IFDL and MADL, as well as the familiar satcom and line-of-sight links for transmission of reconnaissance data
– enhancements to the electronic warfare system
– introduction of the open mission system
– and various other “technical refreshes”, including to the pressure suit and the ejection system.
In addition, the U-2 will also continue its role as a testbed platform for advanced networking efforts such as Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) and the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS).