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US Air Force awards contract for further U-2 Dragon Lady upgrades

U-2 Dragon Lady
US Air Force file photo of a U-2 from the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron

The US Air Force has awarded Lockheed Martin Skunk Works a contract worth $50 million for the upgrade of the U-2 Dragon Lady high-altitude/near space reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft.

The deal will see Skunk Works deliver an updated avionics suite that modernizes the U-2’s onboard systems to readily accept and use new technology.

A new mission computer designed to the US Air Force’s open mission systems (OMS) standard will enable the U-2 to integrate with systems across air, space, sea, land and cyber domains at disparate security levels.

Finally, the company will deliver new, modern cockpit displays to make everyday pilot tasks easier while enhancing presentation of the data the aircraft collects to enable faster, better informed decisions.

The latest contract comes after the U-2 recently received a new electro-optical/infrared sensor capability that was delivered by Collins Aerospace. The Senior Year Electro-Optical Reconnaissance System (SYERS) sensor, SYERS-2C, provides increased optical performance and long-range tracking for threat detection in a wider range of weather conditions.

“As a proven, agile and reliable aircraft, the U-2 is the most capable high-altitude ISR system in the fleet today. The Avionics Tech Refresh contract will continue our commitment of providing a premier aircraft to our warfighters, ensuring global security now and into the future,” said Irene Helley, U-2 program director.

Under this contract, Lockheed Martin will lead the design, integration and test of the new advanced aircraft components, which will enable the U-2 to be the first fully OMS-compliant fleet.

According to the company, interim fielding is anticipated to begin in mid-2021, with fleet modification expected in early 2022.

Routinely flown at altitudes over 70,000 feet, the U-2 is a single-seat, single-engine, high-altitude/near space reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft providing signals, imagery, and electronic measurements and signature intelligence, or MASINT.