A minor point however, the earlier, short span versions were the ones with the highly critical "coffin corner". Those last flew in the 1980's with NASA and have been superceeded with the larger, more capable and more forgiving U-2R/TR-1 (now U-2S).
The U-2 is as highly tasked today as it ever has been in history and continues to soldier on as one of those aviation "greats" that just flat out works. It will be replaced, of course, but I suspect that it will be political will that dooms the Program, not operational need or value. The Global Hawk for example puts up a great advertising campaign as a replacement, but those of us in the know can see clearly that their "value proposition" is highly flawed, bordering on criminal deception. Such is the world of Government procurement today. The Global Chicken has merit, but it's no replacement for the Dragon Lady - no matter how much money the taxpayer continues to throw at it.
As for the replacement for the Sled, I'd like to point out that Lockheed has recently publicly proclaimed that "speed is the new stealth". We may never see the days of covert, paper bags full of cash government procurement again, but hypersonics are the new "thing", and I suspect that the vehicles we will see in the future will boggle the mind. The SR-71 will indeed look like an "ox cart" in comparison.
Yes, much above FL 600 :
"Everything in this book may be wrong."
Richard Bach, Illusions
Section 6 page 7
At these altitudes, 1 kt IAS means about 4 kt TAS
Having seen some cutting-edge astronomy research, interferometry is going to put stealth to bed in way under a decade. Making the hardware (antennas) yourself is do-able, the code is just a matter of clever thinking and reading the scientists.
So I agree. Hell of a lot harder to have your opposition (even if it's a country) come up with a Mach>4 interceptor rocket.
Kennis vermenigvuldig je door het te delen.
(You multiply knowledge by dividing it)
The current fight for survival comes down to an oversimplified comparison between the two platforms:
Cost per flying hour.
You total up the complete O&M cost for each program and divide by the number of flying hours. Seems pretty simple and in that light the U-2 is slightly more expensive. That might be a fair comparison if the platforms were equally matched, but they are not even close. The U-2 hauls far more payload, has much greater electrical generating capacity, cruises faster, and gets higher in far less time. And it is true that the Global Hawk team is making strides to carry many of the sensors that have been on the U-2 for years, but their airframe will never be able to support multiple sensors on a single mission like we can. Their airframe is essentially a one trick pony, while we are the swiss army knife of airborne reconnaissance.
And yes, they make a big deal about their ability to stay airborne for 30 hours, but they dont brag about burning almost half of their mission time just getting to the target, staggering to altitude, and coming home. All of that time transiting to/from the target is worthless from a mission perspective, yet they take "credit" for those flight hours in their cost calculations. The U-2 on the other hand climbs from sea level to FL700 and is on the job in about an hour.
The bottom line is that the U-2 is in a different league than the Global Hawk. We have a more capable platform and processes far more information per flight hour than the Global Hawk, but it is hard to sell "beeps and squeaks per hour" as a metric the taxpayer will understand. Cost per hour is much easier to sell, but in this case makes about as much sense as a major airline procuring Cessna 172's instead of B-737's because one has a lower operating cost.
The GH team does great PR - so much so that they have convinced some in Congress that they can eventually match the capability of the U-2. Of course there is a price tag for that increase in capability, and the number that is floating on the street today is $3B. That's Billion, with a B.
Think about that. We need to throw $3billion of taxpayer money at Global Hawk to get it to parity with the existing U-2, so that U-2 can then go to the boneyard.
How's that for a value proposition?
Last edited by Toobuilder; January 4th, 2017 at 10:04 AM.
As for what it's used, LEO satellites are sent to space once every 6 months now, and have been for the lat 10 year... there could be as many as 10-12 at the moment on orbit doing all the old work of the spy planes... only when there is a low recon mission need to the take out the fancy secret stuff... like getting confirmation of any movement that the LEO satellite can't capture... mostly because of weather... and the other guys have catch one... so they wait, for the weather... then they do their dirty deeds... we send the fast/secret stuff to keep that mostly from happening or at least knowing about it.
Scary stuff is that knowing what the others are doing... to counter...
How far is the range on these lasers? Or are there no such limitations when it comes to focused energy like this?
I just find that...worth it , I love !