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U-2 Dragonlady info

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As for AFSOC losing any pilots to help your shortage, I don't think that'll happen in the near future. AFSOC needs pilots right now.

I think I may know a few interested in the BUFF community. Interested in them, or do they need fighter time?

Your perspective is appreciated, however I work directly with AFPC on U-2 assignments. AFSOC, while a small community, understands the give-and-take nature of the business, and does allow AFSOC drivers to apply. Not many do, as it seems morale in AFSOC is pretty high. Go figure: they have a great mission, a tight community, cool airplanes, etc... That said, some pilots will want a change of pace after 5 years.

Fighter time: just to reiterate, you do NOT need fighter time. Only about 5% of the current pilots came from USAF fighters, with another 13% coming from USN/USMC single-pilot platforms (F-14, F-18, S-3, Harrier).

This is not a fighter assignment. It's a single-seat ISR assignment.

http://www.beale.af.mil/shared/media/docum...-080313-064.doc

Edited by Huggyu2

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I think that's awesome. It'd be nice to have some airframe stability after FAIP'dom with all the changes that are going on everywhere else right now. A lot of people are going to other high tempo, low density assets and deploying on the same schedules so the U-2 TDY rates shouldn't be too big a scare. I think I'll have to save the application packet and roll the ball when my time starts to come. How long out should you start the application before your next PCS time frame?

Give us a call about a year out from a potential PCS.

Have the application to us about 9 months prior.

If picked, you interview 4-6 months prior to a potential PCS.

And, yes, you're right: it appears that the ops tempo is actually pretty good in the U-2, when compared to most other MWS'.

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Huggy,

(Let me set the scene first - I'm working at the Pentagon and I'm really busy.)

So I'm goofing off on the internet for a couple hours and I come across a U-2 forum. Honestly - I have no idea how I got here. Anyhow, I noticed my name mentioned and it left me with one question:

Huggy - I've known you for a while...but when have I ever spelled CLARK with an "E"?!?

I'm a little late here, but my 2 centavos can't hurt. The following thoughts will be somewhat random. If you are even vaguely interested in this job, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Seriously, next to meeting my wife and having a kid, going to the U-2 was the best thing I've ever done - period. Don't let anyone fill your head with BS and rumors. Unless you talk to someone who's done it, you don't have the real picture. TDY's are no worse that any other airframe, but more predictable. I wouldn't worry about the medical thing. Huggy just had his old-fart "POOP" hip or knee replaced and he's flying again.

Worried about career? I was in AFSOC for almost seven years, flying U-boat's. I was an evaluator and they wanted to send me to the WIC. Granted, blowing S up was cool, but I wanted to really fly (I know that sounds cheesy). I was just sick of hauling around 13 booth monkeys and gunners while plowing endless circles over Iraq, Afghanistan, and southern Alabama. Seriously, it was rewarding and I highly recommend going to the Gunpig, but it was time to move on. Went to the deuce and never looked back. Got promoted to Major w/ a school slot. Finshed that last year and now I'm working on the Air Staff. Can't wait to get back to Beale. Dead end? Doesn't seem too bad to me.

I could go on and on about how great the community is, the quality flying, northern California, etc, but I think others have hammered that home already. I remember flying a T-38, driving the car, and flying the deuce all in one day. That's sick. Got any questions? Don't be afraid to drop me a line.

HAIL DRAGONS!

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I don't understand why squadron leadership flying any airframe would downplay the importance of the U-2. What exactly is a "dead end" job in the flying world? Is it one that doesn't get you promoted to general officer, or one that simply isn't satisfying? I would rather do some very important work for our troops on the ground in this fantastic aircraft, and you would also be able to see some really interesting stuff. I found this website describing the U-2 and many of its characteristics. I'd fly it.

http://www.fas.org/irp/program/collect/u-2.htm

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I don't understand why squadron leadership flying any airframe would downplay the importance of the U-2. What exactly is a "dead end" job in the flying world? Is it one that doesn't get you promoted to general officer, or one that simply isn't satisfying? I would rather do some very important work for our troops on the ground in this fantastic aircraft, and you would also be able to see some really interesting stuff. I found this website describing the U-2 and many of its characteristics. I'd fly it.

http://www.fas.org/irp/program/collect/u-2.htm

Good find, beast.

Pilots that say what you just posted are the ones that usually come looking for us.

Most of the leadership negativity I've come across had to do with getting promoted, off to school, and more promotions. A former Wing CC told one of our guys about 4 years ago (before he interviewed) to not blame him if he gets the job and ruins his career. The perception is that you'll waste away here.

Gen Fogleman in 1998 said the U-2 was "a sunset weapons system". So we've been "dying" for a decade now.

Funny that the F-105, F-106, A-7, SR-71, F-117, T-37 and a lot more, came and went within the U-2's lifespan.

We were supposed to go away this year; then 2010. Now, we're funded through 3rd quarter of 2012. But RQ-4 will not even be close by then. I know where I'll put my money.

Edited by Huggyu2

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Guest htcoles
Gotta agree with ya' Spoo and congrats on the curtain climber. I flew the U-2 for 9 years, met my wife while on my "remote" tour (Sq DO in Cyprus) had a couple of kids and now post-retirement, fly for Delta. I had a blast flying the Deuce and highly recommend it to all that are interested. I started my USAF career as a Tweet FAIP at Vance then did a couple of tours in the E-3 before joining the U-2 program in '98. I was in the cockpit my entire time in the USAF and would do it again. Now with the just announced Retired Rated Recall Program the wife and I are considering trying to do just that.

I am looking at that Temporary return to Active Duty program. I didn't see the U2 on the list of airframes that they were looking for. Is that a mistake, or are they leaving it off for good reason. I am from Sacramento and would love to get back there. I am a 130 Traditional Reservist at the moment.

htcoles

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I am looking at that Temporary return to Active Duty program. I didn't see the U2 on the list of airframes that they were looking for. Is that a mistake, or are they leaving it off for good reason. I am from Sacramento and would love to get back there. I am a 130 Traditional Reservist at the moment.

Seeing as you've never been accepted into the U-2, you would need to apply, as well as work with the AFPC folks. BTW, all of this info is on the U-2 Pilot Application page on the Beale Website.

If AFPC accepts you, and the U-2 program wants to interview you, you get your interview. If hired, you join the program. If you don't get hired, you stay in your Guard/Reserve unit, or find a different active duty job you want to do.

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The U-2 is the cover story in this month's (March 2009) Flying Magazine (www.flyingmag.com).

It's a very good read. Check it out.

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The U-2 is the cover story in this month's (March 2009) Flying Magazine (www.flyingmag.com).

It's a very good read. Check it out.

The link for your convenience:

http://www.flyingmag.com/turbine/1379/dragon-hearts.html

U-2 interview landings video courtesy of Stu Broce. BTW, you don't wear the pressure suit during the interview flights.

Edited by Spoo

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3 flights. 1st one, you climb VFR to about ~11,500' for flt char/stall-&-falls/etc... Sorties 2 & 3 you only go to 3000'.

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Has the U-2 program ever taken on exchange pilots from other nations, or is the nature of the mission too sensitive to allow this..?

Not recently that I know of (unless you call the Marines a different nation). In the early days there were some Brits in the program, but that was 50s and 60s.

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From the latest issue of C4ISR Journal.

http://www.isrjournal.com/story.php?F=4204055

The long goodbye

Retiring U-2 easier said than done

By Keith Button

September 01, 2009

The U.S. Air Force’s “target on the wall” date for retiring the fabled U-2 spy plane has been a moving target ever since the service surprised Congress and the intelligence community in 2006 with a proposal to retire the fleet within five years.

The latest retirement date is 2013, which is when the Air Force anticipates flying the first nine versions of a Global Hawk unmanned aircraft tailored specifically to cover the U-2’s spying missions. Observers would not be surprised if the Air Force decided to shift the U-2 retirement date again because of the complicated manufacturing and testing process associated with rolling out the Global Hawks in a succession of versions or blocks.

Challenges also have come from the battlefield. The Air Force has decided to pull cameras off two Global Hawks in the pipeline and install communications antennas on them to satisfy an urgent request from Central Command. The planes would circle high over a war zone — probably in Afghanistan — to serve as communications relays. In June, the Air Force awarded a $276 million contract to Northrop Grumman, the Global Hawk prime contractor, to adapt the company’s Battlefield Airborne Communications Node for the Global Hawk. These nodes are currently flown on two Bombardier business jets.

Critics of the U-2 retirement plan would be glad to see the date slip again because they see the U-2 as vital to plugging intelligence gaps in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some officials were surprised, even shocked, when the Air Force announced it would retire the U-2 as part of a plan to retire other expensive-to-maintain planes: the F-117 Stealth Fighter, some B-52 bombers and C-21 business jets.

“The intel people were saying, ‘We did not have any idea this was coming,’” said a legislative official involved in the U-2 debate. “A lot of us were scratching our heads.”

The Air Force had modernized U-2s with new engines, defensive systems, and “glass” cockpit instrumentation as recently as 2006. The planes could, in theory, fly to 2050.

If the idea was to free up money for F-22 fighters, that argument did not make sense to some staffers because the F-22s were not being flown over Iraq or Afghanistan. U-2s were flying over cities and remote regions to cover the gaps among the footprints of lower-altitude full-motion-video and signals intelligence planes.

Plus, the versions of the Global Hawk designed to cover most of the U-2s capabilities, called the Block 30 Multi-Ints, were nowhere near ready, and they still aren’t.

As of July, experts at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., were continuing with a series of increasingly challenging “envelope expansion” flights with the basic Block 30 airframe to test the plane’s ability to handle high-speed wind conditions, for example. In about nine months, the Edwards team is scheduled to turn the plane over to the Air Force’s Global Hawk operators, who will fly and evaluate it to make sure it meets expectations, including the ability to repair and maintain it.

Congress has set the bar high for retiring the U-2. In 2006, the skeptical staffers drafted legislation, which is now law, prohibiting the Air Force from retiring any planes until the defense secretary certifies that the U-2s ISR capabilities “no longer contribute to mitigating any gaps in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.”

Today, the Air Force has 33 U-2s, and seven Block 10 Global Hawks, which are the versions built after the initial test planes. Just three of the Block 10s are flying wartime missions.

The next Global Hawks — Blocks 20, 30 and 40 — will be capable of carrying 3,000 pounds of sensors, up from 2,000 pounds carried by the Block 10s. The airframes are different enough from the Block 10s that the Air Force decided to push them through a complete process of developmental flight tests.

For the sake of speedy delivery, the Air Force chose to build early versions of the Block 30 planes with only imagers, and call them Block 30 Is, for imaging. Northrop Grumman will install signals intelligence payloads later, making the planes Block 30 Multi-Ints — the planes that will take over much of the U-2’s work. The Air Force plans to have 26 of these, but says it needs to have nine in service to retire the U-2.

The Global Hawk is not the sum total of the Air Force’s U-2 replacement plan, however. The Air Force will make its case by pointing to a combination of aircraft, possibly including Predator and Reaper unmanned planes, and to satellites, said Air Force Col. David Sullivan, chief of the Air Force’s ISR collection capabilities division. The “target on the wall” for the end of the U-2 is 2013, he said.

“The U-2 retirement has been delayed because of slower than expected growth [in the Global Hawk fleet], but the Global Hawk eventually will be the choice for the high altitude, long-duration mission,” Sullivan said by e-mail through a spokesperson.

The U-2 law does not require that the aircraft’s exact sensors be replicated on other aircraft.

Some experts say the Air Force’s reticence to retire the U-2 appears to be motivated by factors other than the Global Hawk development questions and pressure from Congress. “It’s really hard to replace the capabilities of a pilot with a robot,” said Philip Coyle, director of operational testing in the Clinton-era Pentagon. “I believe that’s the basic issue.”

Paul Kaminski, head of Defense Department acquisition during the Clinton administration, said the issue is a complicated one. The initial versions of the Global Hawk were supposed to cost $10 million each, Kaminski said. In 2005, the Government Accountability Office estimated that Global Hawks would cost up to $75 million each. On the other hand, the Air Force has lots of motivations to replace the U-2s with unmanned aircraft. The pilots fly so high that they must wear spacesuits, a fact that limits the U-2 to eight- to 10-hour missions.

“As you can imagine, in that spacesuit, it’s confining and tiring,” Kaminski said.

There are other distinguishing characteristics. The U-2, unlike the Global Hawk, was designed with numerous “hard points” where pods carrying sensors can be attached. Sensors are switched in and out depending on the mission and weather conditions. The potential payload lineup consists of a SigInt sensor; the “wet-film” Optical Bar camera; the Senior Year Electro-optical Reconnaisssance System and the Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar System.

The law does not require these sensors to be transferred to the Global Hawk. There are no plans for the Global Hawk to carry the U-2’s wet-film Optical Bar Camera, which for 40 years has delivered the “clearest, most in-depth, and highest resolution imagery available from any sensor that can be deployed on the U-2 aircraft,” according to a Joint Forces Command document. The camera’s wet film is processed and distributed upon landing.

Also, there are no plans to transfer the SYERS camera, made by Goodrich. This camera uses the infrared spectrum to pick up high-resolution images at night and through haze and fog.

Sensors are not all that will distinguish the U-2 and the Global Hawk. Mission flight planning is one of the key contrasts, according to a pilot familiar with both aircraft. U-2 pilots are trained to handle contingencies, whereas the Global Hawks fly preplanned missions. A plan must be programmed into its control system to foresee every possible contingency. If, for example, a Global Hawk engine were to quit at a particular point in the flight, it would fly automatically to a pre-designated airstrip. A Global Hawk mission can take four to six weeks to validate, assessing risk and factoring in every “what-if” scenario out to several degrees for each point of the flight plan, the pilot said.

Some members of Congress and their staffs opposed switching from the U-2 to Global Hawk because they believed the Global Hawks were becoming “obscenely expensive,” a staffer said. But the Air Force eventually won out with its own cost argument. The Air Force was counting on saving money by switching to an unmanned aircraft and doing away with the spacesuits, and all the training and maintenance the U-2 requires.

“Many of us outside the Air Force didn’t think this was a good idea,” said a staffer, referring to the assumption that unmanned aircraft would be cheaper in the long run.

Ed Walby, now Northrop Grumman’s director of business development for Global Hawk, is a former U-2 pilot who can wax nostalgic about the spy plane — to a point.

“There are certainly some things a U-2 can do that you’re proud of. The history is out there, and some things will never see the light of day because of security,” Walby said. “But at the same time, I was a squadron commander, and I buried four U-2 pilots.”

By some accounts, recruiting new U-2 pilots has become difficult for the Air Force in recent years, partly because it is slated for retirement — a point the Air Force disputes. The U-2 also has a reputation as the world’s most challenging plane to fly, with landings requiring a second aircraft or chase car to guide the pilot in. Landings are also complicated by the plane’s gliderlike design with long wings for maximizing lift.

“It’s still a hard piece to put on the ground. It just doesn’t want to come down,” a legislative staff U-2 supporter said. Also, U-2 missions typically require a pilot to fly for up to 10 hours straight. Factor in the pressurized suits that U-2 pilots must don and the altitude sickness akin to drunkenness that some pilots experience even when the suits are working properly. As one ex-Air Force pilot knowledgeable about the U-2 put it: “Men aren’t supposed to fly at 60,000 feet.”

The Air Force denies that U-2 pilot recruiting has suffered since the program was slated to shut down. “Actually, we’re not having that difficult a time,” said Sullivan, Air Force’s ISR collection chief. “There’s a lot of prestige with the U-2 program.” The challenge of flying the U-2 is a plus for recruiting, Sullivan said, and pilots are always interested in manned flight assignments. Plus, airborne ISR is the one of the most-requested assignments in the Air Force, Sullivan said.

Global Hawks obviously don’t have altitude sickness problems, and they can fly 36 hours at a time — about three times as long as the longest U-2 mission. Walby, the Northrop Global Hawk director, took the case for keeping the proposed budget for the aircraft intact to Capitol Hill this summer: $608.46 million to buy five more Global Hawks for the Air Force, plus dollars for future procurement, and another $317.3 million for additional development.

“Today’s debate is: Should the House Appropriations Committee pull these [Global Hawk] aircraft or should they listen to the war fighter?” he said. “Commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan are starving for persistent surveillance and reconnaissance.”

Jim Hodges contributed to this report.

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Today I was told that some U-2 pilots have health problems (cancer, etc) due to flying so high all the time. Is there any truth to this? I seemed skeptical, but stranger things have happened.

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Today I was told that some U-2 pilots have health problems (cancer, etc) due to flying so high all the time. Is there any truth to this? I seemed skeptical, but stranger things have happened.

If smelling like awesome, having brass balls, and being able to crush ass like Wilt Chamberlain are all health problems, then yes it's true. Who told you that?

In all seriousness, I've never heard that before. There has been on and off interest from the medical community through the years. In fact, I've flown with Dosimeters (measures radiation exposure) and to my knowledge the readings weren't much different than that experienced on the ground or lower altitudes...or maybe they just didn't tell me. With 50+ years of flying, you'd think there would be more than rumors if there was any truth to it.

925 huh? Go Badgers!

Edited by Toro

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Is the U-2 good for your health? Probably not. If you're concerned about it, I'd recommend you stay away from a U-2 assignment.

That said, I'll be at the Columbus AFB career day on Saturday, 7 Nov. Although I'm limited to something like 10 minutes for the presentation, once the other MWS guys give their presentation and it's over, I'll stay and show video and answer questions as long as there are folks there. Yes, UPT students can't apply yet, but come by and look at what you COULD be doing in 3-4 years from now.

If you're a CBM IP, come by and chat.

Four of us will be there,... very different backgrounds, which is typical: F-16 and Test Pilot Grad; B-1 pilot; Marine Cobra pilot, T-34, T-6 (1st pilot to get 1000 hours in the T-6, BTW); T-38 FAIP and PIT IP.

You can probably find us in the bar on Friday. I hear there's an assignment drop.

Edited by Huggyu2

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Today I was told that some U-2 pilots have health problems (cancer, etc) due to flying so high all the time. Is there any truth to this? I seemed skeptical, but stranger things have happened.

Actually, the flight docs at Brooks AFB did a medical study of U-2 pilots back in the 80s and found little evidence of anything serious. I think the focus of the study was really on long term effects from flying at very low cockpit pressures (the "bends", etc), but they interviewed every pilot they could find, young and old, to get medical histories. Bottom line, as I recall, was that the U-2 population was pretty much in line with the overall AF pilot population with regard to medical issues. That was pretty interesting because the early crew force did a lot of post-nuclear test air sampling in the 50s and 60s when everybody was testing in the atmosphere, and they were also interestied in seeing if that was noticible. It wasn't...the aircraft structure and the pressure suit were apparently enough to shield the body from any stray gamma radiation in the residual airborne debris.

The only health problems I recall were generally caused by excessive intake of alcohol and tended toward hangovers, sprains, and fractures!

Edited by HiFlyer

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Just a reminder that we'll be a Columbus Career Day this Friday and Saturday.

Friday: we'll be around the assignment drop. Feel free to come ask questions or just chat.

Saturday: we're giving the "10 min" presentation like everyone else. However, after the last speaker, we will show more video and stick around to discuss the U-2 program.

I understand Saturday is "mandatory fun" for the students,... but if you're an IP who's interested, swing by near the end to catch our Q&A.

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I feel old. Its scary when you recognize people in the pictures!!

Is that you standing next to Tony Bevacqua!!??

I keed, I keed!! :beer:

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Is that you standing next to Tony Bevacqua!!??

I keed, I keed!! :beer:

No, thank God. I recognise several Lockheed guys who were tech reps with us when I started flying, but I knew them when they were somewhat older (in the the 70s). But, its scary anyway.

Edited by HiFlyer

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I feel old. Its scary when you recognize people in the pictures!!

I laugh, but then realize that someday I'll be in the same situation looking at some old pics with some young-whipper-snapper!

On a side note, I got to support some U-2 stuff recently. While not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, it was still pretty damn cool to me.

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From the E-bird:

Out With The U-2? Not So Fast

Air Force holds off on retiring famed reconnaissance plane

By Franklin Fisher, Stars and Stripes

It was born during the Cold War more than 50 years ago, and the Air Force deems it the worlds toughest plane to fly. But the high-altitude U-2 reconnaissance plane is so valued for its intelligence-gathering capabilities that, even in an age of high-tech unmanned drones, the old spy plane has found a whole new mission over the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The U-2 reconnaissance planes mission is changing. The new mission amounts to a landmark shift in how the venerable aircraft can be used: The U-2 now gives direct support to ground operations, including assisting troops in firefights.

Unmanned drones can look get pictures of the battlefield. But so far, they cant listen eavesdrop electronically.

The U-2 does both.

Theres a significant demand for the U-2 downrange in both areas of operation, said Air Force Lt. Col. Kirt Stallings, who commands the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron from a base in Southwest Asia. Weve made a shift to counterinsurgency operations.

The U-2s role is so vital that Congress has told the Air Force to hold off on plans to retire it until an unmanned drone now in testing and development proves it can replace the U-2 Dragon Lady.

The U-2 is famous in part for the pictures it captured of Soviet missiles in Cuba, intelligence that became central in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Its best known for that kind of strategic intelligence gathering thats so valuable to national command authorities.

But the current war zones have the U-2 plenty busy supporting ground operations.

Weve become much more tactically oriented as opposed to the strategic type of mission that the U-2 flew for many decades, Stallings said. We do have daily flights in Afghanistan now. Its where the fight is.

For example, the U-2 can take pictures of wide swaths of terrain; spot and track enemy movements; and warn of an impending attack.

And it can help troops in a shootout. Theyre in a fight, and theres a ridgeline in front of those guys, and they want to see whats on the other side. We just take a picture so they can see whats on the other side. Were finding the enemy for them, Stallings said.

The U-2s replacement would be a version of the existing RQ-4B Global Hawk fitted to take pictures and pick up enemy communications and other electronic signals.

The Global Hawk has the potential to do all that but … it still isnt quite up to the skill set yet because its a new airplane, said Air Force Maj. Colby Kuhns, of the Air Forces High Altitude Transition Team.

The Air Force currently has 32 U-2s in its active inventory. The U-2s main operating base is Beale Air Force Base, Calif., home of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing. Overseas, U-2s are deployed to three forward-operating locations.

The Air Force in 2005 announced plans to retire the U-2 by 2011. But that triggered concerns that military commanders and other decision-makers might be left without key intelligence data.

Congress directed that we not retire the U-2 unless we consulted with them, said Air Force Col. David M. Sullivan, chief of the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Collection Capabilities Division.

We will make the decision, Sullivan said, when the Global Hawk has proven itself in combat and that it is meeting the combatant commanders needs for intelligence collection.

Once the necessary Global Hawk eavesdropping gadgetry is developed, it will be retrofitted onto existing Global Hawk airframes, Kuhns said. The retrofitted Global Hawk variant might begin flying in a war zone sometime in 2011, Sullivan said, but no firm timetable can be set until testing and development is further along.

Meanwhile, the U-2 continues in its traditional strategic and other roles in such places as South Korea, where the 5th Reconnaissance Squadron flies out of Osan Air Base. There, a wall inside a hangar bears the Cold War-era motto of the squadrons parent unit, the 9th Reconnaissance Wing: In God We Trust, All Others We Monitor.

Its a motto that reflects the Cold War strategic mission that still applies in South Korea, said Lt. Col. Spencer S. Thomas, the 5th Reconnaissance Squadrons commander.

The target for the U-2s retirement is currently 2012, the Air Force said.

But even after those first Global Hawks are on the ground downrange, both they and U-2s will continue flying missions during the same period, Sullivan said.

Just because the Global Hawk shows up on a base around the world doesnt mean the U-2 is going to stop flying the next day, he said.

U-2s challenge pilots endurance in the air

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea The once-secret U-2 reconnaissance plane is known for its high-value role in some of the Cold Wars most critical events. Its also known as the worlds toughest plane to pilot.

Capt. Michael Opresko, 29, knows first-hand how challenging it is to fly and land the U-2 Dragon Lady, and how punishing it can be on the body. U-2 pilots fly alone for eight to 12 hours, and so high they have to wear a space suit.

Going up to 30,000 feet cabin pressure is like going from sea level to Everest each day, said Opresko.

And if above a certain altitude they were to lose cabin pressure or eject, without the suit their blood, saliva and other body fluids would instantly boil. Literally.

Not a good thing, Opresko said.

A typical U-2 flight leaves the pilot drained, stiff, and because they breathe 100 percent oxygen during the flight, dehydrated.

Youre completely wiped, youre ready to go to bed, youre hungry, you know, you feel like youve just worked out like none other, Opresko said. You dont have the body aches and pains, but you just feel wiped. Youre done.

The U-2s flight controls have no hydraulics, so unless theyre flying on automatic pilot, working the aircraft takes lots of arm strength. Especially at lower altitudes.

Its all cables and pulleys with not too much mechanical advantage, so it does require a lot of arm strength, especially down low when youre flying in the thicker atmosphere where the aircraft doesnt respond as well, Opresko said. Occasionally we have had emergencies where some of those systems fail, and it does take all the strength that a person has to fly it properly.

And in those situations, the medical responders are pulling them out of the aircraft. They find the pilot hunched over cant even unwrap their arms cause the muscles are completely fatigued and now just stuck in this position.

The Dragon Lady is also notoriously tricky to land. Its like an oversized glider with a 150-foot wingspan and bicycle-style landing gear, and it takes great skill to keep the plane balanced on landing and get it to a safe stop, Opresko said.

The planes very long nose limits what the pilot can see out ahead, and the space helmet limits what can be seen at the sides.

So, normally, a qualified U-2 pilot in a high-speed car at Osan its a Camaro has to follow the plane and radio guidance to the pilot to help him set it down safely.

And theres the matter of in-flight bathroom breaks or not. The pilots have a device to wear for urinating, but defecating is absolutely out.

Wed ruin the suit, Opresko said. So for that reason, we eat a high-protein, low-residue diet.

As for the device, Opresko said it works well, usually. We look cool and all that, but just know that we come out covered in our own sweat and urine quite often, he said, laughing. Its still worth it though.

Edited by Spoo

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I'm at ASBC, and one of the requirements is a presentation. I have decided to do mine on a comparison between capabilities of the U-2 and the RQ-4. This thread has been a gold mine for articles comparing the two. I was wondering if any of the pilots (or anyone else, for that matter) on here have access to any material not already posted on the thread that would be useful in my research. Thanks!

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