Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, in partnership with the U.S. Air Force, completed the first flight of the U-2 Dragon Lady’s Avionics Tech Refresh (ATR) program. The successful first flight tested the new advanced capabilities aboard the U-2 as part of the ATR contract, including:
An updated avionics suite (communications, navigation, display, etc.) 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 pilot tasks easier, while enhancing presentation of the data the aircraft collects to enable faster, better-informed decisions.
The successful first flight of the U-2 Avionics Tech Refresh is a significant moment in our journey to rapidly and affordably field new capabilities,” said Sean Thatcher, U-2 Avionics Tech Refresh program manager at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. “Leveraging the platform’s open architecture, we’re expediting these capabilities needed for the future Joint All-Domain Operations battlespace.”
During this mission the aircraft successfully performed a low-altitude functional check flight to integrate new avionics, cabling and software. The ATR first flight marks a milestone in the U-2’s modernization efforts and its path to be the first fully OMS-compliant fleet. Further testing will solidify a mature software baseline before mission systems are introduced to ensure both functionality and interoperability to meet operational needs. The U-2 ATR contract was awarded by the U.S. Air Force in 2020 and valued at $50 million.
The Lockheed U-2, nicknamed “Dragon Lady”, is an American single-engine, high altitude reconnaissance aircraft operated from the 1950s by the U.S. Air Force (USAF) or the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It provides day and night, high-altitude (70,000 feet, 21,300 meters), all-weather intelligence gathering. It was flown during the Cold War over the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, and Cuba. U-2s have taken part in post-Cold War conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and supported several multinational NATO operations. The U-2 has also been used for electronic sensor research, satellite calibration, scientific research, and communications purposes. The U-2 is one of a handful of aircraft types to have served the USAF for over 50 years, along with the Boeing B-52, Boeing KC-135, Lockheed C-130 and Lockheed C-5. 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. The U-2 is currently operated by the USAF.
The Lockheed Corporation was an American aerospace manufacturer. Lockheed was founded in 1926 and merged in 1995 with Martin Marietta to form Lockheed Martin. Starting with the P-80, Lockheed’s secret development work was conducted by its Advanced Development Division, more commonly known as the Skunk works. This organization has become famous and spawned many successful Lockheed designs, including the U-2 (late 1950s), SR-71 Blackbird (1962) and F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter (1978). The Lockheed Martin Corporation is an American aerospace, arms, defense, information security, and technology corporation with worldwide interests. It is headquartered in North Bethesda, Maryland, in the Washington, D.C. area. As of January 2022, Lockheed Martin employs approximately 115,000 employees worldwide, including about 60,000 engineers and scientists.