Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works will continue to evolve the USAF’s U-2S Dragon Lady fleet, after it was contracted to provide avionics and system upgrades for the service’s high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft.
The contract – worth US$50m – will see Lockheed Martin provide a variety of upgrades to the platform’s avionics, mission computer and cockpit as part of modernisation plans for the service’s U-2S fleet.
These upgrades include the integration of an updated avionics suite to modernise the aircraft’s onboard systems so it can readily accept and use new technology. A new mission computer designed primarily to incorporate the USAF’s open mission systems (OMS) standard will enable the Dragon Lady to further integrate with other systems across air, cyber, land, sea and space domains at disparate security levels. New, modern cockpit displays will be added to help make the pilot’s job easier, while enhancing the presentation of the data collected by the aircraft – allowing for faster, better informed decisions to be made.
Irene Helley, Lockheed Martin’s U-2 programme director, said: “As a proven, agile and reliable aircraft, the U-2S is the most capable high-altitude [intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (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.”
Under the contract, Lockheed Martin will lead the design, integration and testing process of new components. Interim fielding of the systems is expected to begin in mid-2021, with fleet modification scheduled to start in early 2022. This upgrade will see the U-2S become the first fully OMS-compliant aircraft in the USAF.