Dragon Lady completes SYERS-2C upgrades

The latest variant of Collins Aerospace’s Senior Year Electro-optical Reconnaissance System (SYERS) sensor, SYERS-2C, has completed flight testing and its first deployment on a USAF Lockheed U-2S Dragon Lady.

The SYERS-2C upgrades were performed by the USAF and industry partners, comprising Collins Aerospace Systems, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works and a unit of United Technologies.

Upon reaching this milestone, the USAF’s entire U-2S Dragon Lady fleet has now been upgraded to employ the electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor capability, which provides an increased optical performance and highly accurate long-range tracking for superior threat detection in a wider range of weather conditions.

U-2S Dragon Lady [Lockheed Martin]
A U-2S Dragon Lady in flight. This high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft can operate upwards of 72,000ft (22,000m). Lockheed Martin

Kevin Raftery, vice president and general manager of ISR and Space Solutions for Collins Aerospace said: “SYERS-2C represents an evolutionary step forward for the air force, [capitalising] on a high performing, mature system to insert substantial new capabilities into the battlespace of the future.

“The U-2 has been the cornerstone of the air force’s ISR inventory and with upgrades like SYERS-2C, the system can continue to provide increasingly valuable multi-intelligence information to the warfighter for years to come,” he added.

SYERS-2C is a ten-band, high spatial resolution sensor that reportedly provides an unmatched ability to find, track and assess moving and stationary targets. The system has been developed with open mission systems standards to enable command, control and data exchange with fifth-generation platforms. A press release from Lockheed Martin added that “the sensor has become a critical asset to [theatre] commanders bringing unique advantages to joint operations across the battlespace”.

Lockheed TU-2S [USAF/A1C Bobby Cummings] #1
A Lockheed TU-2S Dragon Lady glistens in the sun prior to landing at Beale Air Force Base (AFB), California, in January 2014. USAF/A1C Bobby Cummings

Irene Helley, U-2 programme director at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, added: “The SYERS-2C sensor is the premier [ISR] imaging sensor and its integration into the U-2 Dragon Lady further enhances the aircraft’s ability to provide to provide unparalleled strategic intelligence to our warfighters.

“This milestone continues our commitment to increase the flexibility of the aircraft using open mission systems to support the multi-domain battlespace,” she added.

The Lockheed U-2 – a high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft – first flew in August 1955 and entered operational service with the USAF and the Central Intelligence Agency before 1960. In total, 104 aircraft were produced with just 27 U-2S Dragon Lady and four two-seat TU-2S variants remaining in service with the USAF as of February 2020. NASA also operates two ER-2 versions.