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13 octobre 2015 2 13 /10 /octobre /2015 16:20
photo Lockheed Martin

photo Lockheed Martin


12 oct. 2015 by Lockheed Martin

 

The U-2 Dragon Lady goes through Lockheed Martin Programmed Depot Maintenance (PDM) every 4,800 flight hours or every seven years. PDM involves the complete disassembly, inspection, repair and reassembly of the entire aircraft; ensuring its longevity and ability to fly at today's record-high operational rates. This thorough maintenance allows Lockheed Martin to collect data on airframe integrity, confirming that nearly 80 percent lifespan remains on the aircraft. The U-2 collects critical targets no other platform can, flying faster, deeper and with greater reliability compared to any high-altitude ISR aircraft since the SR-71.

Learn more: http://lockheedmartin.com/us/products...

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9 octobre 2015 5 09 /10 /octobre /2015 11:20
photo US Air Force

photo US Air Force

 

4 octobre 2015 par Frédéric Lert - Aerobuzz.fr

 

Soixante ans après le premier vol de l’avion espion, Lockheed Martin propose de revisiter son U-2 pour en faire un appareil furtif et piloté optionnellement. Pas certain que l’US Air Force morde à l’hameçon…

 

Le U-2 a donc passé le cap symbolique des soixante ans cet été. Le tout premier appareil dessiné par le bureau d’études Skunk Works et Clarence « Kelly » Johnson, ingénieur de légende de Lockheed, avait pris l’air pour la première fois le 1er août 1955. Le U-2 avait été développé très rapidement parce que le besoin exprimé était simple : à l’époque où les satellites n’existaient pas, il fallait tout simplement voler le plus haut possible en emportant un appareil photo. L’appareil avait pris l’air après moins d’un an de développement, pour un coût inférieur de 15% à l’enveloppe prévue. Ca fait rêver…On est d’accord que les U-2S qui volent aujourd’hui sous les couleurs de l’USAF n’ont plus grand chose en commun avec l’ancêtre de la Guerre Froide. Un peu comme la Golf VII d’aujourd’hui et celle de 1974 : le nom et la forme sont toujours là, mais à l’intérieur on a changé d’ère…

 

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16 septembre 2015 3 16 /09 /septembre /2015 11:20
photo USAF

photo USAF

 

15.09.2015 sputniknews.com

 

Les Etats-Unis sont en train de développer un nouvel avion de reconnaissance afin de remplacer l'U-2 en service depuis plus de 50 ans.

 

La division Skunk Works du groupe américain Lockheed Martin a présenté le projet d'un avion de reconnaissance capable de remplacer aussi bien l'U-2 Dragon Lady que le drone Global Hawk, rapportent les médias occidentaux.

 

Le nouvel avion doit être développé d'ici 2025. D'après le magazine Ainonline, les Etats-Unis pourraient avoir besoin de ce type d'appareil au cours des trois prochaines années.

 

Le Lockheed U-2 est un avion-espion en service dans l'US Air Force depuis plus de 50 ans. Il est capable de voler pendant 12 heures à plus de 21.000 mètres d'altitude. Sa vitesse  maximale est supérieure à 800 km/h.

 

Un de ces appareils a été abattu le 1er mai 1960 alors qu'il effectuait un vol de reconnaissance au-dessus de l'Union soviétique. Cet épisode a alors entraîné une détérioration des relations entre Moscou et Washington.

 

Développé par Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical (filiale de Northrop Grumman), le Global Hawk est un drone de reconnaissance américain conçu pour des missions stratégiques. L'appareil a effectué son premier vol le 28 février 1998 depuis une base aérienne en Californie. Il est capable de voler pendant 30 heures à 18.000 mètres d'altitude.

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5 décembre 2014 5 05 /12 /décembre /2014 08:20
U-2 Dragon Lady Takeoffs & Landings at Beale AFB


4 déc. 2014 Lockheed Martin

 

With its glider-like wing, the Lockheed Martin U-2 Dragon Lady wants to fly. Landings are essentially tightly choreographed controlled stalls. During landings, the U-2 is routinely chased on the runway by the backup U-2 pilot driving a high-performance vehicle, such as a Chevrolet Camaro. The chase pilot communicates the height above ground so the pilot in the U-2 knows when to set the aircraft down.

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18 septembre 2014 4 18 /09 /septembre /2014 16:20
General: ‘We Don’t Have a Replacement’ for A-10, U-2

 

September 16, 2014 by Mike Hoffman - defensetech.org


The Air Force does not have a suitable replacement for the planned divestiture of the A-10 Warthog aircraft and U-2 spy plane, senior service leaders said Sept. 16 at the Air Force Association Air and Space Conference, National Harbor, Md.

“I don’t want to cut the A-10 and the U-2 – we don’t have a replacement,” said Gen. Michael Hostage III, Commander, Air Force Air Combat Command.


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RQ-4 Global Hawk taxies on the flightline as a U-2 makes its final approach

RQ-4 Global Hawk taxies on the flightline as a U-2 makes its final approach

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7 mai 2014 3 07 /05 /mai /2014 07:20
Spy plane causes air traffic chaos, says FAA

 

 

6 May 2014 BBC News

 

A U2 spy plane A spy plane used during the Cold War was blamed for computer glitch

 

A spy plane was responsible for a computer glitch that caused air-traffic chaos in western US states last week, the Federal Aviation Administration has revealed.

 

The meltdown occurred when software incorrectly thought the plane was on a collision course with other aeroplanes.

 

The system was overloaded as it struggled to plot new courses for affected aircraft.

 

Hundreds of planes were grounded at Los Angeles International airport.

 

While the system was rebooted, dozens of flights were delayed at smaller airports across the area.

 

Training operations

 

"On April 30 2014, an FAA air-traffic system that processes flight-plan information experienced problems while processing a flight plan filed for a U-2 aircraft that operates at very high altitudes under visual flight rules," FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said.

 

She added the computer system had "misinterpreted" the U-2 as a more typical low-altitude flight and become overwhelmed in trying to make sure its flight path did not conflict with other air traffic in the area.

 

"The FAA resolved the issue within an hour, and then immediately adjusted the system to now require specific altitude information for each flight plan," she added.

 

The agency said it had now added more flight-processing memory to the computer system.

 

The Pentagon confirmed on Monday that an Air Force U-2 spy plane had been conducting training operations in the area, adding that "all the proper flight plan paperwork" had been submitted.

 

The U-2 was used to fly reconnaissance missions during the Cold War, and there are plans to retire the planes within the next few years.

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4 mars 2014 2 04 /03 /mars /2014 17:20
Les 350 A-10 en service sont équipés pour opérer au plus près de l’adversaire. Photo USAF

Les 350 A-10 en service sont équipés pour opérer au plus près de l’adversaire. Photo USAF

 

3 mars 2014 Aerobuzz.fr

 

Aux USA, le budget prévisionnel de la Défense (496 Md$) prévoit le retrait de deux avions de légende : l’avion-espion U-2, et le tueur de chars A-10. Ces deux appareils emblématiques de la guerre froide sont pourtant, encore aujourd’hui, appréciés des militaires américains.

 

Il est temps de tourner la page. Pour le Secrétaire américain à la Défense, Chuck Hagel, les USA ne peuvent plus se permettre de conserver, au sein de leur arsenal, des avions « mono mission ». En conséquence, l’A-10 et le U-2/TR-1, deux avions de légende, se retrouvent dans le collimateur du Pentagone et de la Maison Blanche se trouvent.

 

Selon l’administration américaine, supprimer le parc d’avions d’attaque A-10C , soit 350 avions au total, permettrait d’économiser 3,5 Md$ en cinq ans. Une somme qui aiderait à financer partiellement le programme d’avion d’attaque furtif F-35, les drones d’attaque Reaper et surtout, une partie des avions ravitailleurs. Selon la Maison Blanche, ces avions d’attaque qui ont plus de 40 ans, sont des reliques de la guerre froide. Ils sont aujourd’hui qualifiés d’obsolètes et de vulnérables aux moyens de défense modernes.

 

 

Le A-10 est capable d’encaisser les coups des défenseurs adverses. Photo  USAF

Le A-10 est capable d’encaisser les coups des défenseurs adverses. Photo USAF

 

Au congrès, une sénatrice dont le mari est un ancien pilote de A-10, a fait remarquer que le « tueur de chars » des années 80 est aujourd’hui qualifié de « meilleur ami du fantassin » sur tous les théâtres où il a été engagé, et plus d’un marines lui doit la vie sauve. En outre le parc vient de subir, aux frais du contribuable américain, une modernisation importante qui a porté sur l’avionique, le système d’arme, les moyens d’autoprotection et l’installation d’une nouvelle voilure. De quoi faire durer ces monstres blindés de titane et d’aluminium jusqu’en 2028 au moins.

 

Si les drones d’attaque sont en train de monter en puissance dans l’arsenal américain, leur souplesse d’emploi et leur fiabilité laisse encore à désirer parfois. Quant au remplaçant furtif, le F-35 JSF, présenté comme le fer de lance des années 2020, les retards de programme, les dépassements de budget et les déboires techniques à répétition n’augurent, pour le moment, rien de bon. Ainsi, là où un A-10, taillé pour le combat au plus près de l’adversaire avec son blindage peut survivre à des impacts de munitions de 12,5 mm et des tirs de missiles courte portée, le coûteux JSF, dépourvu de tout blindage et dont la soute interne ne permet pas d’emporter beaucoup de missiles, devra rester à distance de sécurité.

 

 

Le A-10 tire des munitions à uranium appauvri capables de percer tous les blindages. Photo USAF

Le A-10 tire des munitions à uranium appauvri capables de percer tous les blindages. Photo USAF

 

 

En outre plusieurs sénateurs font remarquer que depuis les années 80, le spectre des missions du A-10 est passé de « simple » «  tueur de chars  », à avion d’appui aérien, de contrôle des opérations avancé et moyen de localisation de personnes en détresse en zone hostile. Bref le A-10 est aujourd’hui le couteau suisse des avions d’attaque, à l’instar des SU-25 en Russie.

 

Le A-10 a bénéficié d’un important programme de remise à niveau. Photo USAF

Le A-10 a bénéficié d’un important programme de remise à niveau. Photo USAF

 

Autre victime pressentie des restrictions budgétaires américaines : l’avion espion U-2/TR-1 « Dragon Lady ». Cet appareil est apparu dans les années 50. Né en huit mois seulement de la volonté d’un seul homme, l’ingénieur de Lockheed Martin Clarence Kelly Johnson, cet appareil vendu à la CIA puis à l’USAF est depuis 50 ans de toutes les opérations, qu’elles soient secrètes, ou officielles. Le parc actuel d’avions espions, U-2 compte 32 unités. Le potentiel théorique de cet avion singulier peut lui permettre de rester en service pendant encore 35 ans. Les U-2 sont des avions optimisés pour la haute altitude, environ 77.000 pieds au maximum, soit largement au dessus des avions de ligne. Plus on vole haut, plus on voit loin, et moins on a de chance d’être abattu expliquait Kelly Johnson.

 

Vers une sortie définitive des U-2 et A-10 de l’arsenal militaire américain

Le U-2 est apparu dans les années 50. Il a permis par exemple d’estimer dès ses premières missions le véritable potentiel offensif de l’URSS. Photo Lockheed-Martin

 

Depuis son perchoir, le U-2 met en œuvre des charges utiles diverses suivant les données à collecter. Ainsi pendant les missions en ex Yougoslavie, un U-2 interceptait en permanence toutes les communication radio militaires et civiles. Des données relayées en direct par satellite vers Washington, qui, après traitement, élaborait une situation tactique claire de tout le théâtre d’opérations. Ainsi équipé, le U-2 savait avant même les Awacs, qu’un pilote serbe ou croate s’apprêtait à mettre en route son MiG21. Un préavis inestimable pour les forces de l’Otan. Plus tard en Afghanistan, c’est encore le U-2 qui surveillait les mouvements des Talibans poseurs de bombes improvisées sur les routes. La panoplie du U2 comprend également un radar capable de détecter les cibles au sol les mieux camouflées tout en restant au dessus des nuages, et des caméras à très haute résolution.

 

Vers une sortie définitive des U-2 et A-10 de l’arsenal militaire américain

Le U-2 croise à plus de 21.000 mètres pendant des heures pour fournir de précieux renseignements aux militaires et aux politiques. Photo Loockheed-Martin

 

Le remplaçant pressenti du U-2 est le drone Global Hawk Block 30. Avec une endurance de 30 heures environ il bat à plate couture le U-2 dont le pilote a besoin de repos après huit heures exténuantes dans la stratosphère. Mais le drone a ses défauts, sa vulnérabilité au brouillage des communications, la faiblesse de sa capacité d’emport, ses capteurs aux performances moyennes, son altitude de croisière inférieure et ses couts d’exploitation élevés. Bref un manque de maturité qui suscite des réactions de méfiance outre-Atlantique.

 

Vers une sortie définitive des U-2 et A-10 de l’arsenal militaire américain

Le parc de U-2, qui se monte à 32 unités est encore « jeune » en termes de potentiel. photo Lockheed-Martin

 

Quant aux satellites espions, leur cout élevé et leur manque de souplesse d’emploi ne compenseront pas le départ du U-2. En effet, un satellite défilant ne peut passer que quelques minutes sur un point donné, et il emporte soit un radar à ouverture synthétique, soit des capteurs SIGINT (radio) soit des caméras. Le U-2, lui peut aisément être configuré pour n’importe quel mission et assurer la permanence du renseignement là où les autres moyens ne sont pas présents.

 

Vers une sortie définitive des U-2 et A-10 de l’arsenal militaire américain

Le U-2 collecte des données tactiques et stratégiques.  Il dispose de moyens d’écoute électroniques, d’un radar air-sol et de caméras très puissantes. Photo Lockheed-Martin

 

La bataille qui opposera bientôt le Congrès à la Maison Blanche pour le budget de la Défense s’annonce rude, mais il y a cette fois peu de chances que le U-2 et le A-10 en réchappent.

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25 février 2014 2 25 /02 /février /2014 19:20
L’US Air Force sur le point de se séparer de ses A-10 et ses U-2

Plus de 700 A-10 ont été produits par Fairchild pour les besoins de l'US Air Force. Photo © US Air Force

 

25.02.2014 Helen Chachaty journal-aviation.com

 

 

Le secrétaire d’État du Pentagone, Chuck Hagel, a détaillé le 24 février l’ensemble des mesures et des recommandations concernant l’armée américaine pour la prochaine année budgétaire, qui doivent être présentées au Congrès la semaine prochaine. Deux décisions sont particulièrement emblématiques pour l’US Air Force : le retrait du service actif de la flotte d’A10 « Warthog » et d’U-2 « Dragon Lady », deux flottes qui permettrait au Pentagone de faire de substantielles économies, les deux modèles étant relativement âgés.

 

Le Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II devrait ainsi être mis à la retraite, la date précise n’étant pas encore connue. Le remplacement de ce bi-réacteur par des F-35 à l’horizon 2020 devrait permettre de réaliser une économie de 3,5 milliards de dollars selon le Pentagone, qui parle de coûts et de difficultés croissants pour le MCO de ces appareils. « Des économies significatives ne sont possibles que si la totalité de la flotte est retirée du service actif, en raison des coûts fixes de maintenance associés à cet avion. Ne garder qu’un nombre restreint d’A-10 ne ferait que retarder l’inévitable », a déclaré Chuck Hagel lors de son discours. De plus, l’A-10, utilisé uniquement pour l’appui aérien rapproché depuis 40 ans, n’est pas viable dans un environnement aérien qui nécessite de plus en plus d’avoir des avions multirôles.

 

L’US Air Force devrait donc également se séparer de sa flotte d’U-2 « Dragon Lady », en service depuis 50 ans. Cette retraite s’opèrera au profit des drones HALE RQ-4 Global Hawk. Il avait un temps été question de maintenir les U-2 en complément des Global Hawk, pour des raisons de budget, mais la réduction des coûts d’exploitation des drones HALE a mis en avant leur efficacité par rapport à l’U-2, d’une autonomie et d’un rayon d’action moindre. « Le Global Hawk représente une meilleure plateforme de reconnaissance à haute altitude pour le futur » a déclaré Chuck Hagel.

 

Le retrait des A-10 et des U-2 permettra selon le secrétaire d’État une redistribution au profit de programmes-clés : nouveau bombardier, F-35, nouveau ravitailleur KC-46A. Le Pentagone émet également une recommandation pour l’investissement d’un milliard de dollars dans un programme technologique de moteur de nouvelle génération.

 

De plus, le ministère de la Défense précise que si les niveaux budgétaires du « séquestre » sont reconduits en 2016, l’US Air Force devrait alors retirer du service actif d’autres flottes d’aéronefs, 80 avions, dont la flotte de ravitailleurs KC-10. Le séquestre obligerait également à ralentir les achats de F-35 prévus en 2019 ainsi qu’à opérer une réduction drastique des heures de vols allouées aux pilotes.

L'USAF dispose aujourd'hui de 32 U-2 opérationnels. Photo © US Air Force

L'USAF dispose aujourd'hui de 32 U-2 opérationnels. Photo © US Air Force

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21 novembre 2013 4 21 /11 /novembre /2013 08:20
U-2 Modifications Reduce Decompression Sickness

November 19, 2013 defense-aerospace.com

 (Source: US Air Force; issued Nov. 18, 2013)

 

ROBINS AFB, Ga. --- Air Force pilots flying the "Dragon Lady" no longer experience decompression sickness during their high-altitude flights, according to officials with the U-2 Program Office here.

 

Commonly referred to as DCS, decompression sickness is caused by the formation of nitrogen bubbles in the blood and tissue following a sudden drop of air pressure.

 

For U-2 pilots, who routinely fly missions above 70,000 feet, this has been a major concern.

 

"Our pilots were seeing an increased number of DCS incidents due to long missions," said Col. Fred Kennedy, the Command and Control, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Division chief. "Air Force senior leaders became aware of the problem, and made fixing it their No. 1 priority for our program."

 

The fix -- dubbed the Cabin Altitude Reduction Effort, or CARE, program -- beefs up the U-2's structure, replaces the legacy cockpit pressure regulator and safety valve, and includes modifications to the engine bleed schedule. That permits engineers to nearly double the cockpit pressure experienced by a U-2 pilot, from 4.4 pounds per square inch to more than 8 psi.

 

"What our folks have done is to drop the apparent altitude in the cockpit from 29,500 feet to 15,000 feet - roughly the difference between Mount Everest and Pikes Peak (Colo.)," Kennedy said. "CARE basically eliminates the risk of DCS and allows our U-2 pilots -- who might otherwise have been removed from flying status -- to keep flying."

 

A total of 27 U-2 airframes have been outfitted with CARE, ahead of schedule and under cost. The total outlay for the program was $8.7 million, officials said.

 

To date, there have been no reported DCS incidents since the modifications.

 

"This is a big deal for the U-2 community," Kennedy said. "Healthy pilots mean more missions and more extraordinary ISR capability for our warfighters."

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23 septembre 2013 1 23 /09 /septembre /2013 17:20
Something Old, Something New

9/22/2013 Strategy Page

 

An RQ-4 Global Hawk taxies on the flightline as a U-2 makes its final approach Sept. 17, 2013, at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. The RQ-4 and U-2 are the Air ForceÂ’s primary high-altitude intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings)

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9 octobre 2012 2 09 /10 /octobre /2012 17:45

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/95/Usaf.u2.750pix.jpg

 

October 9, 2012. David Pugliese - Defence Watch

 

This is written by U.S.A.F. public affairs Senior Airman Shawn Nickel:

 

Whether people recognize it by the Snoopy-like nose or by the flat black paint and red lettering on the tail, the U-2 has become an Air Force reconnaissance icon in its 50 years of military operations.

 

Since the first model was assembled in the 1950s, the aircraft’s original, shiny aluminum skin has evolved to the current flat black paint scheme, and its mission has broadened as intelligence imagery techniques have improved.

 

It was originally designed to fly high-altitude intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions during the Cold War to gather intelligence on opposition forces. Today the U-2S flies in support of a variety of missions from ground combat to disaster relief. The aircraft has been updated over the years with a 33 percent larger frame, fiber-optic wiring and an all glass cockpit. These improvements increase the aircraft’s payload and loiter time, making it easier to fly.

 

The U-2′s dynamic airframe can carry approximately 4,000 pounds of equipment, paving the way as a test platform for new technologies. With its immense and diverse payload capacity, it is capable of a multitude of missions. Some pilots describe it as the “Lego” airplane.

 

“It’s like Mr. Potato Head,” said Lt. Col. John, an instructor pilot with the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron. “You just take one part out and add a new one. There are so many new developments running through the works right now. New weapons systems are going to emerge and accelerate the curve of the U-2 even more.”

 

One of the aircraft’s primary missions is to capture imagery via the decades-old, wet-film camera, which is sharp enough to see roadside bombs from 70,000 feet and offers greater resolution than any digital sensors available.

 

“The U-2 started out only carrying a wet-film camera. Now, with today’s technology, I’m alone up there, but I may be carrying 40 to 50 Airmen via data link who are back at a (deployable ground station),” John said.

 

In addition to its other capabilities, the U-2 provides service members on the ground with the intelligence they need to effectively carry out their mission, said Capt. Michael, a 1st Reconnaissance Squadron instructor pilot. This could include acting as an antenna to troops on the ground in Afghanistan or providing detailed imagery during a natural disaster.

 

“We are up there to make a difference,” Michael said. “We are there to make an impact on the troops we support.”

 

For operational security reasons, many details about the U-2 and its mission are unknown to the public. When the airframe was in its infancy, even pilots coming into the program knew very little about it. One of those men is retired Lt. Col. Tony Bevacqua, one of the original Air Force U-2 pilots.

 

Since the jet was developed at the height of the Cold War, it was used extensively over the Soviet Union, Cuba, and other opposition countries. Bevacqua said every precaution was taken to keep the technology from leaking into enemy hands.

 

“I volunteered for an assignment I knew nothing about, and they wouldn’t tell me anything about the U-2,” Bevacqua said. “The aircraft was state-of-the-art back then; no one in the public knew about it.”

 

This first class of pilots had to learn everything about the aircraft from the ground up. They developed the first U-2 training program in a matter of weeks, much of which is still used today.

 

“Before I joined the Air Force, I’d never even built a model airplane, but we trained hard to learn everything about the U-2,” he said. “After weeks of being the first pilots in the U-2, we became the instructors for the second class of pilots.”

 

The program is considered an exclusive group, with less than 80 current U-2 pilots.

 

“There are more people who have Super Bowl rings than there are U-2 pilots,” said Lt. Col. Stephen Rodriguez, the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron commander. “There are less than 1,000 pilots in the history of this program. That’s less than some airframes train in one year.”

 

After flying for years in other military airframes, a pilot from any U.S. service can apply to fly the U-2, Rodriquez said. Following a strict interview process, he sends these prospective aviators on a series of training flights to test the pilot’s aptitude.

 

“We interview applicants to screen for airmanship, maturity and ability to adapt to the U-2′s unique landing characteristics,” he said. “Allowing inter-service transfers brings lessons from outside the Air Force, which helps us at operating in a joint environment.”

 

Although the pilots are the face of the U-2′s mission, hundreds of Airmen behind closed doors in windowless buildings exploit, disseminate and transmit the information the aircraft collects. These Airmen provide mission-essential assistance to commanders around the globe.

 

“To be able to support the warfighter from the U.S. is a great feeling,” said Master Sgt. Sean, the 9th Intelligence Squadron flight lead. “We contribute to the mission downrange whether we deploy and support the efforts with manpower and bullets or we support it through ‘intel’ from home station.”

 

The U-2 is at a high operational tempo and with the program schedule to endure through 2040, there are no signs of slowing down. U-2 pilots will continue to provide timely, relevant and persistent high altitude ISR to meet the needs of the nation’s leaders to support the current fight and any future challenges our nation may face.

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14 février 2012 2 14 /02 /février /2012 17:50
U-2 Defeats The Robots Again

photo USAF

 

February 14, 2012: STRATEGY PAGE

 

The U.S. Air Force, faced with substantial budget cuts, has cancelled orders for 18 RQ-4 Global Hawk UAVs. At the same time, the retirement of its U-2S reconnaissance aircraft has been delayed once again. Last year it was decided to keep the U-2 in service until 2016. Now the U-2 will keep flying until 2020, or later. The reason is the continued failure of the RQ-4 to prove it can replace the manned U-2. Moreover, the air force has been battling the RQ-4 manufacturer for years over reliability, capability and price issues. The basic problem was that the Global Hawk was never able to come close to the capabilities and reliability of the U-2. Although the U-2, which entered service 56 years ago, carries a pilot, it also carries more weight and has more than twice as much electrical power (for more capable sensors) than the RQ-4. The air force will keep over 50 RQ-4s in service, but the cancelled RQ-4s is a wakeup call to the manufacturer to do better, or lose even more sales.

 

It wasn't just the U.S. Air Force that was havening problems with the RQ-4. South Korea wanted to buy several of them, but eventually backed off as the price kept going up and delivery dates became increasingly vague. Instead of having their own long range recon aircraft, South Korea is looking for smaller substitutes. This might be Israeli Herons or American Reapers. Meanwhile, U-2s will continue to watch North Korea. The three American U-2s stationed in South Korea generally carry out one sortie a day. The cameras and electronic eavesdropping gear can record or photograph North Korean military activity up to a hundred kilometers north of the DMZ (the DeMilitarized Zone) that separates the two Koreas. In an emergency two or even all three U-2s can be put in the air.

 

Its popularity is running the U-2s ragged. Several U-2s have been in service over 40 years and spent nearly 30,000 hours in the air. One of these aircraft had made three belly (landing gear up) landings, requiring extensive rebuilding after each incident.

 

 

With a range of over 11,000 kilometers, the 18 ton U-2s typically fly missions 12 hours long. All U-2s have been upgraded to the Block 20 standard, so they can be kept in service until the end of this decade. Or at least until the 13 ton Global Hawk, or some other UAV is completely debugged and available in sufficient quantity to replace it.

 

The U-2 has been in service since 1955 and only 86 were built, of which 26 remain in service. Less than 900 pilots have qualified to fly the U-2 in that time. The heavy use of the U-2 has been hard on the pilots. Missions can be as long as 12 hours and pilots operate in a cockpit pressurized to conditions found at 9,600 meters (30,000 feet). This puts more strain on the pilot's body. That, and the fact that they breathe pure oxygen while up there, means they tend to be completely exhausted after returning from a long mission. U-2s also fly missions daily over the Middle East and Afghanistan.

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8 janvier 2012 7 08 /01 /janvier /2012 09:00
U-2s Ends A 22 Year Mission

photo USAF

January 7, 2012: STRATEGY PAGE

On December 18th, the last (for the moment) American U-2 mission was flown over Iraq. These missions began in 1990, after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and continued until December, 2011. The last decade has been the busiest for the U-2 in decades. Because of the spy satellite quality sensors carried by U-2s, and a limited number of spy satellites up there, there was always more demand for U-2s sorties than could be provided. Three years ago, for example, two 41 year old U-2s achieved a record 25,000 hours in the air. One of these aircraft had made three belly (landing gear up) landings, requiring extensive rebuilding after each incident.

With a range of over 11,000 kilometers, the 18 ton U-2s typically fly missions 12 hours long. All U-2s have been upgraded to the Block 20 standard, so they can be kept in service until the end of this decade. Or at least until the 13 ton Global Hawk is completely debugged and available in sufficient quantity to replace it. The U-2 has been in service since 1955 and only 103 were built, of which 26 remain in service (plus five two-seat trainers). The current U-2S aircraft were built as TR-1s in the 1980s, and later refurbished and renamed U-2S. Fewer than 900 pilots have qualified to fly the U-2 in that time.

The heavy use of the U-2 has been hard on the pilots. Missions can be as long as 12 hours and pilots operate in a cockpit pressurized to conditions found at 10,000 meters (31,000 feet). This puts more strain on the pilot's body. That, and the fact that they breathe pure oxygen while up there, means they tend to be completely exhausted after returning from a long mission. U-2s fly missions daily over the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Korea.

This wasn't supposed to happen. Six years ago the U.S. Air Force wanted to retire its U-2s and replace them with UAVs like Global Hawk. But Congress refused to allow it, partly for political reasons (jobs would be lost, which is always a live political issue) and because some in Congress (and the air force) did not believe that Global Hawk was ready to completely replace the U-2. This turned out to be correct. New Global Hawks continue to appear but there is so much demand for the kinds of recon work the two aircraft can do that both pilots and robots will coexist for a while. But eventually the old reliable U-2 will be retired.

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26 décembre 2011 1 26 /12 /décembre /2011 08:20
U-2 Holds Out Against The Robots

 

 

December 24, 2011: STRATEGY PAGE

 

The U.S. Air Force has again delayed the retirement of its U-2S reconnaissance aircraft. Now the U-2 may remain in service until 2016 or later. The reason is the continued failure of the Global Hawk UAV to prove it can replace the manned U-2. Congress wants the Global Hawk to pass tests proving it can do everything the U-2 can before the U-2, which entered service 56 years ago, is retired.

 

For the last five years the U.S. Air Force has been trying to replace its manned U-2 reconnaissance aircraft with the RQ-4 Global Hawk. This has not worked out well. In addition to the problems with Global Hawks' reliability and dependability, another issue has been in the superiority of the sensors carried by the U-2. So why not just install the U-2 sensors in the Global Hawk? The problem here is weight and space. The U-2 is a larger and heavier aircraft, and even with a pilot, has more carrying capacity. Air force suppliers keep promising that they have the problem solved but after several generations of Global Hawk sensor redesigns and improvements, it will still be a few years before the Global Hawk will be competitive and the U-2 will be out of a job.

 

Then there's the UAV software, which has still not matched the capabilities of pilots. The humans still have an edge over robotic systems, especially when it comes to emergencies. But another advantage that the U-2 has is that it has been around for half a century. Its quirks and foibles are well known. The Global Hawk is not only new but is also the first of a new kind of robotic aircraft.

 

Global Hawk has crossed the Pacific, from North America to Australia, using onboard computers to run everything. While impressive, Global Hawk still has a tendency to get into trouble unexpectedly and not know how to recover. More work needs to be done on the software and, to a lesser extent, the hardware used by Global Hawk. Since no one can (or at least will) swear when Global hawk reliability will be up to acceptable standards plans are being made to keep the U-2s around for a while longer - just in case.

 

This popularity is running the U-2s ragged. Two years ago, for example, two 41 year old U-2s achieved a record 25,000 hours in the air. One of these aircraft had made three belly (landing gear up) landings, requiring extensive rebuilding after each incident.

 

With a range of over 11,000 kilometers, the 18 ton U-2s typically fly missions 12 hours long. All U-2s have been upgraded to the Block 20 standard, so they can be kept in service until the end of this decade. Or at least until the 13 ton Global Hawk is completely debugged and available in sufficient quantity to replace it. The U-2 has been in service since 1955 and only 86 were built, of which 26 remain in service. Less than 900 pilots have qualified to fly the U-2 in that time.

 

The heavy use of the U-2 has been hard on the pilots. Missions can be as long as 12 hours and pilots operate in a cockpit pressurized to conditions found at 30,000 feet. This puts more strain on the pilot's body. That, and the fact that they breathe pure oxygen while up there, means they tend to be completely exhausted after returning from a long mission. U-2s fly missions daily over the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Korea.

 

This wasn't supposed to happen. Five years ago the U.S. Air Force wanted to retire its U-2s and replace them with UAVs like Global Hawk. But Congress refused to allow it, partly for political reasons (jobs would be lost, which is always a live political issue) and because some in Congress (and the air force) did not believe that Global Hawk was ready to completely replace the U-2. This turned out to be correct. New Global Hawks continue to appear but there is so much demand for the kind of recon work the two aircraft can do that both pilots and robots will coexist for a while. But eventually the old reliable U-2 will be retired.

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