The American company Lockheed Martin has recently received a $50 million contract from the U.S. Air Force to upgrade the U-2 spy plane to support future battlespace needs.
As part of the modernization program, the aircraft will receive a new avionics suite to readily accept and use new technology, new mission computer, and modern cockpit displays. The new dashboard will make everyday pilot tasks easier while enhancing the presentation of the data the aircraft collects to enable faster, better-informed decisions.
Modernization of the aircraft will be carried out under the U.S. Air Force’s open mission systems (OMS) standard that enables the U-2 to integrate with systems across air, space, sea, land, and cyber domains at disparate security levels. Thanks to this, any company will be able to modernize military equipment, and the modernization itself will be much faster.
The updates will be made by Lockheed Martin in the factory in Palmdale, California, which is specified in the release. This facility has been producing the most advanced aerospace systems for the U.S. military for nearly 70 years.
The U-2 “Dragon Lady” is a single-seat and single-engine high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft. U-2, which has a glider-like body structure, can perform signal intelligence (SIGINT), image intelligence (IMINT), electronic intelligence (ELINT), and measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT). The pilots of U-2 spy planes, which can climb above 70,000ft altitude during the mission, wear flight clothing similar to those worn by astronauts due to pressure.
U-2 reconnaissance aircraft entered service with the U.S. Air Force in 1956. They are able to reach speeds of up to 805 km/h (500 mph) and fly over distances of up to 960 km (596 miles). Currently, the U.S. Air Force has 30 in-service U-2S aircraft, whose average age is 36.6 years.
The U.S. Air Force claims that after modernization, the U-2 Dragon Lady will be the first fully OMS-compliant fleet. As expected, the interim fielding is anticipated to begin in mid-2021, and fleet modification expected in early 2022.