Next round of U-2 vs Global Hawk gearing up

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posted on Jun, 25 2013 @ 03:03 PM
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The latest round in the battle between the Air Force and Congress over the U-2 and Global Hawk is gearing up, and it promises to be a good one.

Last year during the monsoon season on Guam, where the Air Force has been flying Global Hawk missions to monitor North Korea, whenever there was a storm the aircraft were grounded. This led to them being grounded for an entire month at one point. The aircraft has no camera system that allows it to see weather, and the ceiling is over 10,000 feet lower than the U-2 it's bidding to replace.

The Air Force has decreed that it must be able to fly 10,000 feet over the top of any storms in its path, and with a ceiling of 60,000 feet, it's not always able to do this. The U-2 on the other hand is capable of flying well over any storm that it might encounter, with an actual ceiling in the 75,000 foot range.

In a direct comparison between the two the platforms seem equal, with the U-2 having the higher ceiling, much better climb rate, better cost (all the U-2 platforms have been bought and paid for) and better electro-optical camera. The Global Hawk on the other hand wins hands down in endurance (32 hours as opposed to 10-14), as well as more flexible sensors. It only has two sensors, but it has the ability to switch between electro-optical and SAR modes on one sensor, so it effectively has three.

The U-2 is still remarkably young with the average aircraft being near the 14,000 hour mark and a life cycle expectancy of 75,000 hours.

This fight has gotten several members of Congress (with Northrop Grumman backing) rather upset. They actually put into the budget that the Air Force was not allowed to use any of their funds to retire, prepare to retire, or place into storage" any RQ-4 Block 30 aircraft. They were also ordered to buy the three that they opted not to buy, but have been dragging their feet to the point where Congress demanded that the Secretary of Defense force them to buy the aircraft.

This has been quite the battle to watch over the last few years, and it shows no signs of ending anytime soon.

www.defensenews.com...




posted on Jun, 25 2013 @ 04:44 PM
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You meanFrancis Gary Powers type?
Thought they parked em for the blackbirds?Was blissfully unaware they were still making them......
The longer flight times the bugaboo thinks me.......put some big ass center line tank on em and give the pilot a two quart plastic bottle......
edit on 25-6-2013 by stirling because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 25 2013 @ 07:27 PM
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reply to post by Zaphod58
 


With todays tech I don't know why they can't merge the two systems into one new type of aircraft. Maybe a twin engine U-2 with Global Hawk engines?

I would think that wieght and fuel consumption are probably the main issues in this battle.

But I still think it's necessary to have both manned and unmanned platforms.



posted on Jun, 25 2013 @ 08:29 PM
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reply to post by stirling
 


The current U-2 is a much upgraded version. It hasn't been built for years, but it's been upgraded numerous times in the last decade or so.

It's not a matter of fuel when it comes to mission times, it's a matter of the physiological stresses of flying for 12 hours at 75,000 feet. Even with a space suit on the pilots are affected in several ways by the altitude.

reply to post by TDawgRex
 


Northrop Grumman has offered to put a forward looking camera that would allow the operators to see weather ahead of them, at cost (roughly $7 million total cost), as well as the current electro-optical camera used on the U-2, which would improve the sensors on the RQ-4 immensely, for about $85 million, by taking them from the U-2 fleet and installing them on the Global Hawk fleet.



posted on Jun, 25 2013 @ 09:14 PM
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don't you think the AF should be replacing the U-2 with a more modern platform.....after all updates can only do so much....??



posted on Jun, 25 2013 @ 09:20 PM
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Originally posted by TDawgRex
reply to post by Zaphod58
 


With todays tech I don't know why they can't merge the two systems into one new type of aircraft. Maybe a twin engine U-2 with Global Hawk engines?


the modern variants of the U-2 already have a F-118 turbofan replacing the original J75 turbojet. the f118 develops 19,000 lbs thrust and weighing about 3200 lb.. The Rolls Royce 137 in the Global Hawk develops 7600 lb thrust and weighing about 1585 lb.

so not only would putting 2 engines in place of one be a major design change, but it would come up short in terms of power for no weight advantage.



posted on Jun, 25 2013 @ 09:30 PM
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reply to post by Aloysius the Gaul
 


Some platforms are in better shape than others though. The U-2 doesn't fly nearly as much as a B-52 or KC-135 does. Where a KC-135 might fly multiple missions a day, every day for a week, the U-2 might fly two or three times in that same week. I really don't want to replace something just to replace it, but some of our platforms are in bad shape and need replacing.



posted on Jun, 26 2013 @ 12:25 PM
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How old are the current ones anyway?
Those airframes certainly won't last forever, no matter how good the maintenance and the upgrades are.



posted on Jun, 26 2013 @ 02:03 PM
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reply to post by as4000
 


I agree, but even as old as this fleet is, they are incredibly low time. They are probably the least stressed aircraft in the inventory. Due to pilot limitations they can only fly a few times a week.



posted on Jun, 26 2013 @ 02:50 PM
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Its simple really - does newer equal better?

Back when the real pioneers and thinkers in aviation were working at stuff, they built things properly, which is why the BUFF's and the KC135's and the U2's are still viable platforms.

New costs more. It seems to do less. Aircraft are not built the same these days, and "skunky" thinking seems to be out of the window - yes, hats are tipped to the traditions of how things used to be but they are most definitely not done that way now.

To me, new does not equal better. It is, at best, on a par.



posted on Jun, 26 2013 @ 04:21 PM
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Originally posted by neformore
Its simple really - does newer equal better?

Back when the real pioneers and thinkers in aviation were working at stuff, they built things properly, which is why the BUFF's and the KC135's and the U2's are still viable platforms.


that is traditionalist nonsense.

the reason they can still fly is that modern analysis enables the actual stresses to be analysed more accurately, which means we now have a much better understanding of how long their structures can last.

That and lots of refurbishment!



posted on Jun, 27 2013 @ 11:19 AM
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reply to post by neformore
 


What a load of bullocks.

Those aircraft are still flying for a number of reasons. Their utilization rates are not very high for a start. When the utilization rate is not high, the benefits of going to a new aircraft which would be more fuel efficient, maintenance friendly, and safe, are less. In addition, if an aircraft can be kept flying with some upgrades, primarily avionics, it will be far cheaper and quicker than designing, building, and certifying an entirely new aircraft.

From Wiki:


As of 2006, the KC-135E fleet was flying an annual average of 350 hours per aircraft and the KC-135R fleet was flying an annual average of 710 hours per aircraft.


That's why they can fly them for so long. But things like spare parts and corrosion are starting to become a problem. Airliners fly thousands of hours per year.

New aircraft are in general more reliable, more safe, and higher performing then their predecessors. Which is why aircraft today are significantly different in design to those 50 years ago. Pretty much each iteration of aircraft will have enhancements designed to make the aircraft more reliable. Recent improvements include:

FBW

ACARS

Reduced wiring

Digital cockpits

Corrosion resistant materials.

Reduced complexity of many systems

Fault detection and localisation systems.

Lessons learned from previous accidents and aircraft....

They should age better and last longer than they aircraft they are replacing. The A320 is already beginning to age better than the 737 NG for example. The 777 is blowing the 767 and 747 out of the water. etc...
edit on 27/6/13 by C0bzz because: (no reason given)





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