Lockheed U-2 : Reconnaissance aircraft

Lockheed U-2
Lockheed U-2

Militarymedia.net - The Lockheed U-2 is a high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft piloted by the USAF. It is developed and produced by Lockheed Skunk Works. The U-2, nicknamed the Dragon Woman, is seen as a national and tactical asset, providing critical intelligence to political decision-makers and theater commanders. It is capable of collecting multi-sensor photos, electro-optical, infra-red and radar imagery, as well as signal intelligence gathering (SIGINT). About 85 aircraft were built. Currently 35 of them are in active service, thinly spread out to cover the odds around the world, even though surveillance satellites have been found.

The Lockheed U-2 made its maiden flight in 1955. It was designed for minimal airframe. The large wingspan gives this spy plane some glider-like characteristics. The U-2 is a difficult aircraft to fly and notoriously difficult to land. Originally flown by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This aircraft came to public attention in 1960, when one was shot down over Soviet territory.

The U-2 spy plane can carry more than 1,300 kg of sensors. It is carried in a detachable nosecone (with different cone shapes for different sensors), a large 'Q-bay' behind the cockpit for large camera transport, smaller bays along the lower fuselage and in two super wings. detachable pod. These sensors include a range of recorders for communications intelligence (COMINT) and electronic intelligence (ELINT), imaging radar, ASARS-2 battlefield surveillance, PLSS radar tracker, and high-resolution cameras.

Recorded intelligence could be transmitted via a data link to an earth station, and at least three aircraft were equipped to carry the Span Senior satellite communications antenna in a large teardrop radome mounted on a dorsal mast. This enables the transmission of recorded intelligence across global distances in near real-time.

From 1994 to 1998 Lockheed changed the surviving Lockheed U-2R engine to the U-2S standard, the U-2R J75 turbojet replaced with the F118-101 turbofan. Derived from the F118-GE-100 B-2 power plant, the new engine is more fuel efficient, provides a 15 percent range increase, returns operational ceilings to figures above 24,380 m and increases carrying capacity across USAF bases.

All U-2S serve with the 9th Reconnaissance Wing headquartered at Beale Air Force Base, California. The main flying unit is the 99th RS at Beale; Its three theater detachments consist of Det 1 at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, OL-FR at Istres AB, France and OL-CH / 4402 Reconnaissance Squadron (Interim) at Al Kharj AB, Saudi Arabia. The 5th Hospital was assigned to Osan AB, South Korea to cover the Far East while the 1st RS conducted training with two U-2S (T) and T-38A Talon trainers.

Slow progress is being made in exploring unmanned replacements for this familiar spy plane. The Lockheed U-2 has been in operation for more than 50 years. It also outperformed the successor to the SR-71, which finally retired in 1998.

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