In service for almost 65 years, the U-2 spy plane continues to prove its usefulness to the U.S. Air Force. Something that can be proven by the fact that Lockheed Martin has just been awarded a new contract worth $50 million to upgrade the aircraft.
Scheduled to start in 2021, the work will involve updating the avionics suite to be able to accept new technologies under implementation, a new mission computer that will allow the U-2 to integrate with the open mission systems (WHO) standard USAF, and modern cockpit displays that make pilot tasks easier.
“As a proven, agile and reliable aircraft, the U-2S is the most capable high-altitude ISR system in the fleet today. The Avionics Tech Refresh contract will continue our commitment of providing the premier aircraft to our warfighters, ensuring global security now and into the future, ”said Irene Helley, U-2 program director.
All aircraft, the number of which has not been revealed, are expected to be ready by the beginning of 2022.
The strange aircraft with wings span over 100 feet was designed in the early 1950s to spy on the Soviet Union from an altitude of over 70,000 feet. Slow and complicated to operate, the U-2 proved to be extremely effective, however, the alleged impossibility of being detected and hit was soon dismissed when a plane piloted by Gary Powers was shot down by surface-to-air missiles in 1960, giving rise to one of the episodes most dangerous in the Cold War.
In spite of this and to be accompanied by an incredible airplane, the fast SR-71 also created by Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works team, the “Dragon Lady”, as it became known, remained useful in several missions, including flights with NASA.
It is estimated that more than 100 aircraft were manufactured by the end of the 1980s and that around 30 continue to be used by the USAF, an indisputable proof of the importance of the U-2 in the history of aviation. And it should last for many years to come.