War News Updates: The End Of An Era In The World Of Intelligence Gathering

The Lockheed U-2, which first flew in 1955, pr...
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After more than 50 years gathering intelligence 13 miles above the ground, the United States’ U-2 spy planes will be phased out and replaced by unmanned drones by 2015, The New York Times reported this week. Find out more about the long history of the high-altitude aircraft, which first took to the skies during the tense Cold War era and has played a crucial role in recent operations, particularly in Afghanistan.

via War News Updates: The End Of An Era In The World Of Intelligence Gathering.

The U-2 is one of very, very few planes that was so successful, it was put back into production after the line was closed.

Ben Rich, successor to Kelly Johnson at the Skunk Works, convinced the Air Force in the late 70s/early 80s that the best replacement for the U-2 would be… the U-2!

7 thoughts on “War News Updates: The End Of An Era In The World Of Intelligence Gathering”

  1. I bet this has something with one u-2 getting intercepted by PLAAF near china coast – as far as i know nobody has yet put a CPU on spy trial 😛

    1. I don’t think that did the U-2 program any favors, but it has been pretty common knowledge for years that the Global Hawk program was going to eventually replace the U-2/TR-1 platform.

  2. The U-2 was obsolete as soon as Ivan showed they could shoot one down when they downed Gary Powers during Ike’s administration. Johnson’s black gang designed the Black Bird as its replacement and we took it out of service, first in ’88, then permanently in ’98. While the U-2 kept flying, its capabilities did not equal the Black Bird, although it had a down link capability the 71 lacked. That could have been added, however.

    While UAVs are available now, they still don’t have the capability the Black Bird did. I was told many years ago, by some one that should have known, that an SR-71 flew the entire length of the Soviet Union and they didn’t come close to shooting it down. None of the UAVs available, or dreamed of, have the capability the 71 had as a Strategic Recon bird. If it had down link capability, then the U-2 would not have equaled it as a tactical recon bird.

    I have my doubts about the Global Hawk program being a good replacement for either the U-2 or the Black Bird.

  3. SR-71 was strategic recon, (hence the name), and AFAIK there were some very high speed drones developed in the skunk works – and some used in vietnam reportedly – while the u-2 was re-used as tac recon bird for situation with no enemy airborne threats and low or none ground air defence, in which role it actually could be replaced by drones like global hawk
    A Polish AF general has reminisced recently a SR-71 Poland overflight early in 1981 martial law, (he was a young pilot back then) he said Soviets scrambled every fighter in Poland and still couldnt get it…

  4. If we could reopen the production lines for the U-2, why not also for the B-52 and B-2? Forget new systems that are little more than vaporware, we should stick with what is tried and true – with all the reasonable upgrades – at least for the time being.

  5. The U-2 was pretty easy to reopen. It was actually a fairly simple airframe. Designing it was a challenge, but fabricating the parts was pretty easy. Plus, the Skunk Works held on to the tooling. That’s not the case with either the B-52 or the B-2. The start up costs would be incredible.

    1. And, a simple re-start would never happen. If you are having to start up again, why not include those things you wish you had done, and changes to make building easier. It wouldn’t be as expensive as developing a new bird, but the price would not be trivial either.

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