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U-2 Dragonlady info

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Funny! Yeah, that was last year... summertime? Hard to remember exactly. I met the host when I did a static at the 2014 DM Airshow, and he really wanted me on the show right away. I had to put it off, but we finally got it done.

Thanks, matmacwc.

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U-2 poised to receive radar upgrade, but not un-manned conversion
By: James Drew
Washington DC
Source: Flightglobal.com
This story is sourced from Flightglobal.com
22:05 31 Jul 2015

The Lockheed Martin proposal to “un-man” the U-2 is dead, but the old high-altitude surveillance aircraft is very much alive despite repeated attempts to kill the programme.

The air force pushed back the aircraft’s retirement from 2016 to 2019 in its latest budget submission, giving it more time to upgrade the Northrop Grumman RQ-4B Global Hawk before sending the U-2 to the boneyard.

But the Lockheed Skunk Works thinks retiring the U-2 would be premature, since the U-2 fleet is as active and capable today as at any point in its 60-year history.

In fact, the U-2 programme is set to receive an improved Raytheon Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar System (ASARS-2B) with double the range of the original -2A model, and a third-generation L-3 Communications radio that can relay data between fourth- and fifth-generation fighter jets, among other things.

Austin says the ASARS-2B active electronically scanned array radar and the new radio are just two items in a “prudent actions list” approved by the air force secretary and currently being considered by Congress as part of the service’s fiscal year 2016 budget submission.

If approved, Austin says the programme will move quickly to field the new capabilities.

“I can only assume Raytheon has been working fast and furiously. They are poised to implement,” she says.

The radar upgrade will improve the aircraft’s target indication and synthetic aperture radar imaging capabilities, and is a modular unit carried as needed depending on the mission.

The unit would be fielded alongside the latest Senior Year Electro-Optical Reconnaissance System-2C multispectral imaging sensor, which Austin says can see new bands on the electromagnetic spectrum and the data it collects is easier to interpret. Two units are currently fielded.

“I do believe SYERS-2C is a significant improvement in data collection,” she says. “There’s more data, and absolutely it can extend the [u-2’s] relevance beyond 2019.”

The U-2 faces renewed competition from the Global Hawk though, with a new cooperative research agreement signed between USAF and Northrop that would demonstrate SYERS-2C and other sensors on the high-flying unmanned alternative.

The Global Hawk is a smaller, lower-flying aircraft with less power, but can stay airborne for more than 30h and costs less to operate per flight hour.

And any hopes the Lockheed had of extending the U-2’s flight time by converting it to a remotely-piloted configuration are gone. The air force considered an unmanned conversion back in 2012, and the idea was floated again in 2014, but the idea has not gained any traction.

“We put that idea forward, it was not met with any interest, so we remain ready to evaluate it again, but at this time we’re not pursuing it,” says Austin.

“We’ve done some extensive stress analysis to verify our airframe is good through 2050,” Lockheed U-2 programme director Melani Austin tells Flightglobal. “That’s based on information generated from the engineering team here as well as concurrently evaluated at Warner Robins [Air Logistics Centre], our acquisition customer.”

Lockheed still maintains that the Global Hawk will struggle to reach parity with the U-2 by 2019, if at all. Austin contends that the U-2S, built in the 1980s, still has plenty of structural life left and could keep flying through 2050 if needed.

“Our mission capability rate averages 97%,” she says. “We have 80% of the life in the airframe left, we have no vanishing vendor issues, and we’ll continue to perform at the request of the air force.”

The service owns 27 single-seat, mission-capable U-2s and 5 double-seat trainers stationed at Beale AFB in California. The aircraft are forward deployed to the Middle East and in the Pacific theatre, and some are currently supporting the air campaign against the Islamic State extremist group in Iraq and Syria.

On another note, all 27 mission aircraft have received the Cockpit Altitude Reduction Effort (CARE) upgrade to reduce instances of decompression sickness, with the final modification completed earlier this year. Lockheed says there have been no reported cases of decompression sickness since.

The U-2 generally flies at 70,000ft and CARE reduces the pressurised altitude inside the cockpit to 15,000ft.

http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/u-2-poised-to-receive-radar-upgrade-but-not-un-manned-415291/

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We still use the suit. It is there to keep you alive in the event of a loss of cabin pressure. The suit is at ambient pressure until cabin alt surpasses ~35,000' (meaning below that, the suit is at whatever alt the cockpit is at). At >~35K, the suit controller restricts/shuts down outflow and the suit "inflates" (keeps suit at 35K while you get the jet in a descent). Before CARE we flew around at 27-29,000' cabin alt. Make sense?

Edit:

BTW, there's a face seal in the helmet that allows you to breath 100% O2 at the physiological equivalent of 2000'.

Edited by Spoo

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I know the jet is funded through 2019...any more rumors on whether or not it is going to be around any longer than that?

It's anybody's guess at this point.

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I know the jet is funded through 2019...any more rumors on whether or not it is going to be around any longer than that?

As soon as the Global Hawk reaches parity, which by nearly every measure  is impossible, soooo...

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As soon as the Global Hawk reaches parity, which by nearly every measure  is impossible, soooo...

The first step in reaching parity is replacing that radome with a cockpit.

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The killer is the part where it says you must be released from your functional to apply. I would love to apply and have a former U-2 pilot here encouraging me, but nobody is being released from RPAs right now.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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Holy shit.  Did you know Hugh (the pilot at your location) was the first, and only U-2 pilot to deploy in the two-seater?  Please pass on my best and congratulate him on all his success.

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2 hours ago, MooseAg03 said:

The killer is the part where it says you must be released from your functional to apply. I would love to apply and have a former U-2 pilot here encouraging me, but nobody is being released from RPAs right now.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

A buddy of mine in Global Hawks just got released to go back to the KC-135 due to the mass exodus of 11M's.

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3 x former RPA guys in my squadron here flying F-16s. TAMI-21 victims. 2 got here last year and one got here 2 months ago. More hope for you...

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Judging from the number of PMs I've received, my two-seater joke was a little too subtle.  To clarify, the two-seater has never flown operationally.  I was insinuating that the pilot in question couldn't be trusted to fly a real-world mission by himself. 

You know, when you have to explain the joke, it makes it a lot funnier. 

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For your high-altitude viewing pleasure...

Nicely done, Meat.  

Edited by Huggyu2
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Deuce_zps1icn7zhv.png

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Article Link

Still hiring...

Lockheed's 30-aircraft TR-X plan priced at $3.8 billion

16 March, 2016, BY: James Drew, Washington DC

Lockheed Martin’s plan to construct a fleet of 30 high-altitude, single-engined tactical reconnaissance aircraft from cannibalised U-2S Dragon Lady and RQ-4B Global Hawk components would take 10 years and cost approximately $3.8 billion if adopted, a company official says.

Called TR-X, the programme would furnish low-observable airframes – powered by the U-2’s GE Aviation F118 non-afterburning turbofan engine – with sensor suites and antennas from the manned Lockheed U-2 and remotely piloted Northrop Grumman RQ-4B.

The scheme would consolidate the two divergent platforms – which were designed to be complementary but have competed for limited resources – into a single high-altitude intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance fleet for the US Air Force.

The now-unmanned TR-X, previously known internally as the optionally piloted UQ-2 or RQ-X, was revealed last year by Lockheed’s Skunk Works advanced development and design division. Since then, design staff have finessed the concept and aircraft planform – which won’t be revealed to the public because of protected design features.

“It uses a lot of systems off [the] Global Hawk and U-2,” said Skunk Works U-2 business development manager Scott Winstead, speaking at a Lockheed briefing in Washington DC on 15 March.

“In fact 90% of our mission systems, sensors, payloads and avionics we repurpose, and 80% of hardware is repurposed as well. By re-using the U-2 engine, you save a ton of money.”

The company had been considering an operating ceiling of about 77,000ft, but that would require two engines. Instead, TR-X will fly at 70,000ft with one engine, peering across borders deep into target countries using its Raytheon ASARS-2B advanced synthetic aperture radar system – an electronically scanned array that will come online in 2018 – as well as new multispectral imaging sensors like the UTC Aerospace Systems MS-177.

The wingspan has been restricted to the 39.9m (130ft)-wide span of an RQ-4B to prevent costly infrastructure and base modifications.

Winstead says TR-X will be built as a one-for-one U-2 replacement. As U-2s go through their programmed depot maintenance cycle – once every five to six years – they will be stripped down and usable components such as the engine will be transferred to the new aircraft body over a two-year construction period.

“Instead of tearing it apart and rebuilding it as a U-2, you’d tear it apart and scavenge its parts and rebuild it as a TR-X,” Winstead explains. “Yes, we’d be scavenging pieces and parts off the Global Hawk, primarily it’s sensor inventory. You’d build your first handful of TR-Xs using the U-2 sustainment line.”

Lockheed estimates it will take six to eight years to recapitalise the air force's 33 U-2s and another two years to replace its 21 Block 30, and 11 Block 40, Global Hawks. “At the end of the 10-year timespan, you’d have 30 TR-Xs, which give you greater capability than you’ve got today,” says Winstead.

Skunk Works has come up with a low-observable aircraft design that could be made more stealthy through modular upgrades. For instance, the baseline configuration retains the U-2’s long nose, which houses the ASAR radar or UTC senior year electro-optical reconnaissance system (SYERS-2C).

That nose might eventually be swapped with a conformal low-observable version for use on sensitive wartime missions.

The antennas ported across from the U-2 and Global Hawk will also show up on enemy radar screens, but they too could be replaced with conformal shapes.

“With a low signature for survivability, tie that in with a very good defensive system, and you’re going to have something with survivability better than an F-35 is today,” says Winstead. “It won’t be unnoticeable, but it will be survivable.”

TR-X can fly for 24h and is capable of in-flight refuelling. The air force has stated a preference for an aircraft with 40h of endurance, with refuelling allowed, Lockheed says.

Lockheed doesn’t expect to begin construction any time soon, based on conversations with US Air Combat Command.

Fiscal pressures and a change of president in 2017 mean any successful TR-X bid would not be in the air force budget until fiscal year 2020 at the earliest. That’s “an extremely aggressive schedule” and it will more likely have to wait until fiscal year 2024, to introduce an aircraft in the 2030s, Winstead adds.

The U-2 could keep flying to its structural limit of 75,000 flight hours or “beyond 2024” based on current estimates, says Lockheed.

Last year, the air force was pushing to retire the U-2, beginning in 2019, but Congress will not let that happen until the service comes up with a credible transition plan that involves modifying the Global Hawks to carry the U-2's SYERS-2C, MS-177 and Optical Bar Camera sensors.

Northrop has already begun flying demonstrations using those sensors through a co-operative research agreement with the air force. It is testing a “universal payload adaptor”, which involves hardware and software modification.

US Air Force chief of staff Gen Mark Welsh confirmed at an Air Warfare Symposium last month that 2019 is no longer a planned retirement date for the U-2.

“2019 is when we believe we will have proven the capability of the Global Hawk to use the sensors that have been hosted on the U-2 up until this point,” says Welsh. “Once we do that, we’ll build a transition plan from U-2 to Global Hawk capability as we have done in the past. Until we’ve completed that work, projecting the future doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

The air force's latest budget plan spends almost $2 billion on Global Hawk modernisation, including MS-177 integration, compared with the U-2's meagre $46 million allocation.

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Not retiring in 2019?  Who would have guessed that??

Edited by Huggyu2

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8 hours ago, Huggyu2 said:

Not retiring in 2019?  Who would have guessed that??

Huggy, we talking about the airplane or about you...?  :beer:

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On 3/19/2016 at 6:56 AM, Spoo said:

“2019 is when we believe we will have proven the capability of the Global Hawk to use the sensors that have been hosted on the U-2 up until this point,” says Welsh.

giphy.gif

 

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18 hours ago, AZwildcat said:

 

Ye of little faith.

image.jpeg

Edited by jice
Clarity
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Yes... no doubt it's photo shopped.  

I tried numerous times in my career to get U-2's in formation.  Disapproved, Captain!  

I coordinated the photo shoot that ended up on the cover of Flying Magazine in 2009, and after months of work to make it happen, it didn't get approved until the 11th hour... and it took COMACC approval.  Yes... as crazy at it is, a 4-star had to bless it.  Not a 1-star... not a 2-star... not even a 3-star.  No, it took the full-four-star power of Gen Corley (who is actually a great leader) to decide that this was something us lesser mortals could pull off.  Seriously?  Somehow, Kuma and I executed the photo shoot leaving Oshkosh in 2008, and managed to not kill anyone or break any gov't equipment in the process.  

A year later... getting a dissimilar U-2/T-38 photo chase would have never happened except that AF Magazine asked for it, and it got approved in 2010.  Oddly enough, this got quietly delegated to me and a few others, and we just did it quietly.  As you can see from the video, we got some great shots.  Literally, the Group and Wing leadership... although having been notified it was approved by HQ... were completely unaware of what we were doing.  No wonder it went so smoothly.  

A still photo from the shoot ended up on the cover of Air & Space Magazine:  CSCAN00-3.jpg

But getting approval to fly TWO U-2's... in formation... over the Golden Gate... at 1800' MSL... in the current climate of sequestration and risk aversion... are you shitting me?  Or just taking crazy pills?

Well... I'm no longer on the A-Team.  Instead, I quietly cruise the aisles of the commissary in my velcro-strap tennis shoes, sans-a-belt jumpsuit, and "USAF Retiree" ball cap... but I'll bet my last dollar this is a photo shop.  I cannot imagine "my Air Force" allowing a couple of professional aviators to do something as "CRAZY" as what this photo appears to show.  

P.S.  on the subject of "risk aversion", let me get on my soapbox...   <rant on>

Back around early 2012, Maj Gen Lyon came to visit Beale AFB when he was ACC Director of Ops.  He decided that Beale's T-38 program shouldn't do extended trail, close trail in excess of 60 degrees of bank,  and 'four-ship formation', along with a few other things that His Eminence figured was beyond the capabilities of the unwashed pilots of the Recce community.  This didn't apply to other ACC T-38 bases, only Beale.  Never mind the fact that UPT students do this shit solo, and that there has never been a Class A at Beale involving U-2 pilot buffoonery.  He promulgated this edict verbally... and it became law via FCIF.  Not Vol 3... just a local FCIF. 

Lyon retired about 2-3 years ago.  However, since then, has anyone at the O-6 level rescinded Lyon's off-the-cuff restriction to Beale T-38 flying?  A purely verbal policy that is not in print anywhere except the local FCIF?  An unwritten, undocumented utterance from someone who is no longer on active duty?? Nope.  Four years later... still in effect.  

I suppose this thread derailment belongs in one of the "What's Wrong with the Air Force" threads... so I'll shut up now.  Please... carry on.  

Wow... I feel much better having gotten that off my chest.

P.P.S.  Fvck off Ram... and go get me an Ensure.  

Edited by Huggyu2
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