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The fat lady has not necessarily sung on the fate of the U.S. Air Force’s high-flying U-2 intelligence aircraft.
Lockheed Martin has crafted a reduced-cost plan to “optionally man” its U-2, throwing a new possibility into the mix as Congress weighs whether to shift to an all-Northrop Grumman Global Hawk unmanned aircraft fleet for high-altitude reconnaissance. With an optionally manned U-2, advocates for the so-called Dragon Lady say the venerable aircraft finally can match the endurance offered by the RQ-4B Global Hawk. Convincing lawmakers and the Pentagon likely will be an uphill battle, though.
The Office of the Secretary of Defense finally opted after more than a decade of waffling to commit to a U-2 retirement path in its fiscal 2015 budget request, carving a path for an all-Global Hawk fleet. But U-2 advocates are continuing to argue that its attributes—including a 5,000-lb. payload—are superior to those of the Global Hawk, a high-flying unmanned aircraft capable of lofting 3,000 lb. of sensors. The U-2 operates at 70,000 ft. while the Global Hawk is limited to 60,000 ft., reducing its slant angle—or sensor range—for targets. It also lacks defensive systems that the U-2 carries.
Under the program to optionally man the aircraft, the wings would be extended by 10 feet each,
Maybe just a way to sneak an entirely different craft into the fray or use the money mostly on other black projects? Conspiracy freak here? You betcha!
originally posted by: Zaphod58
a reply to: StratosFear
Weight and space. Hydraulics are heavy, and at that altitude would freeze. Same with fly by wire, once you add all the computers in.