Lockheed Martin Skunk Works has been awarded a contract from the U.S. Air Force, valued at $50 million, to upgrade the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft.
The contract includes the following upgrades to the Dragon Lady, according to Lockheed Martin:
- 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 U.S. Air Force’s open mission systems (OMS) standard that enables the U-2 to integrate with systems across air, space, sea, land and cyber domains at disparate security levels.
- 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.
“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 a premier aircraft to our warfighters, ensuring global security now and into the future,” said Irene Helley, U-2 program director, in a statement.
Under this contract, Lockheed Martin will lead the design, integration and test of the new advanced aircraft components.
Interim fielding is anticipated to begin in mid-2021, with fleet modification expected in early 2022.
The U-2 is operated by the United States Air Force and was previously flown by the Central Intelligence Agency. It provides day and night, high-altitude (70,000ft) all-weather intelligence gathering capabilities.
The aircraft had its first test flight was in 1955 and was flown during the Cold War over the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, and Cuba. The newest models (TR-1, U-2R, U-2S) entered service in the 1980s and the latest model, the U-2S, had a technical upgrade in 2012.