The Dragon Lady was fitted with fixed modern cockpit displays 15-20 years ago, making piloting much easier on missions, including communication and navigation. But as the years passed, the cockpit upgrade increasingly lacked compliance with FAA/ICAO civil navigation procedures. Moreover, portable electronic devices flourished, and they were adapted for use by civilian aviators. Now, U-2 … Continue reading INNOVATION IN THE U-2 COCKPIT
One of the hottest topics in the US military today is networking for battle management. Work to connect sensors, systems, shooters and decision-makers across the armed forces, in real time, is accelerating. They now call it Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2). But the U-2 has been at the forefront of this effort for more … Continue reading THE U-2 HAS PIONEERED AIRBORNE NETWORKING
The Dragon Lady has survived yet another defense budget review. Although its future was examined as the Pentagon crafted the FY2021 request, the program survived intact. Instead, all 20 of the Global Hawk Block 30s that serve alongside the U-2 at Beale, are to be dumped. Ten Block 40 versions of the UAV based at … Continue reading IN THE FY2021 BUDGET, THE U-2 SURVIVES, GLOBAL HAWK CHOPPED
The USAF’s draft budget for Fiscal Year 2021 is grinding its way through the Pentagon, and will emerge into the public domain next spring. Once again, the U-2’s future is under scrutiny, despite a previous decision to keep the Dragon Lady in service until at least the mid-2020s. Perhaps that is inevitable, given that the … Continue reading THE U-2, THE GLOBAL HAWK, AND PENETRATING ISR
An article that I wrote recently for Aviation International News (AIN), where I was formerly the defense editor, touches upon the above question. The story is primarily about the forthcoming demise of JSTARS, but some of my discussion is relevant to the U-2: https://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/defense/2019-06-15/does-jstars-demise-spell-end-airborne-isr However, the inherent flexibility of the Dragon Lady should keep it … Continue reading COULD THE U-2 BE REPLACED BY SATELLITES?
I’m sure that the U-2 community is carefully evaluating the shooting down of a Global Hawk UAV over the Straits of Hormuz by Iran on 20th June. Are there lessons to be learned? Is the U-2 equally vulnerable? A radar tracking map released by the Iranians shows the Global Hawk flying at 57,000 feet when … Continue reading GLOBAL HAWK SHOOTDOWN: COULD A U-2 MEET THE SAME FATE?
The latest US Air Force budget request aims to keep the U-2 equipped with state-of-the-art sensors, data links and other systems. The service plans to spend more than half a billion dollars on Dragon Lady developments over the next five Fiscal Years (FY2020-2024). When installed, some of them result in a redesignation from U-2S Block … Continue reading IMPROVING THE U-2 – CONTINUED FUNDING FORESEEN
If you have read DRAGON LADY TODAY, you will already know that NASA flies two U-2s from Palmdale that are specially configured for science missions. Designated ER-2 (ER = Earth Resources), these aircraft were delivered in 1981 and 1989 and, like the rest of the U-2 fleet, were re-engined with the GE F118 engine in … Continue reading NEW COCKPIT FOR NASA U-2s
I am often asked that question, usually by someone to whom I have just explained that the Dragon Lady remains the world’s premier reconnaissance aircraft, and was not retired years ago! The answer is currently 31, comprising 25 single-seat U-2S models that can fly operational missions; four dual-cockpit TU-2S trainers; and two ER-2 versions that … Continue reading HOW MANY U-2s ARE STILL FLYING?
The 9th RW has flown another journalist: Michael Phillips of The Wall Street Journal. There is a very good video of his experience on the WSJ website: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-u-2-spy-plane-still-flying-combat-missions-60-years-after-debut-1528382700 Equally interesting, Phillips was told about a new project to use artificial intelligence to help interpret the imagery from the U-2’s Optical Bar Camera (OBC). On pages … Continue reading MAKING INTELLIGENT USE OF FILM