Dragon Lady (U2)
Definition/Scope: Mission: The U-2 provides high-altitude, all-weather surveillance and reconnaissance, day or night, in direct support of U.S. and allied forces. It delivers critical imagery and signals intelligence to decision makers throughout all phases of conflict, including peacetime indications and warnings, low-intensity conflict, and large-scale hostilities. Features: The U-2S is a single-seat, single-engine, high-altitude/near space reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft providing signals, imagery, and electronic measurements and signature intelligence. Long and narrow wings give the U-2 glider-like characteristics and allow it to quickly lift heavy sensor payloads to unmatched altitudes, keeping them there for extended periods of time. The U-2 is capable of gathering a variety of imagery, including multi-spectral electro-optic, infrared, and synthetic aperture radar products which can be stored or sent to ground exploitation centers. In addition, it also supports high-resolution, broad-area synoptic coverage provided by the optical bar camera producing traditional film products which are developed and analyzed after landing. The U-2 also carries a signals intelligence payload. All intelligence products except for wet film can be transmitted in near real-time anywhere in the world via air-to-ground or air-to-satellite data links, rapidly providing critical information to combatant commanders. Measurement and signature intelligence provides indications of recent activity in areas of interest and reveals efforts to conceal the placement or true nature of man-made objects. Routinely flown at altitudes over 70,000 feet, the U-2 pilot must wear a full pressure suit similar to those worn by astronauts. The low-altitude handling characteristics of the aircraft and bicycle-type landing gear require precise control inputs during landing; forward visibility is also limited due to the extended aircraft nose and "taildragger" configuration. A second U-2 pilot normally "chases" each landing in a high-performance vehicle, assisting the pilot by providing radio inputs for altitude and runway alignment. These characteristics combine to earn the U-2 a widely accepted title as the most difficult aircraft in the world to fly. The U-2 is powered by a General Electric F118-101 engine, fuel efficient and lightweight, which negates the need for air refueling on long duration missions. The U-2S Block 10 electrical system upgrade replaced legacy wiring with advanced fiber-optic technology and lowered the overall electronic noise signature to provide a quieter platform for the newest generation of sensors. The aircraft has these sensors: electro-optical infrared camera, optical bar camera, advanced synthetic aperture radar, signals intelligence, and network-centric communication. A U-2 Reliability and Maintainability Program provided a complete redesign of the cockpit with digital color multifunction displays and up-front avionics controls to replace the 1960s-vintage round dial gauges which were no longer supportable.
Used For:reconnaissance aircraft
Broader Terms:Cold war
Related Terms:Central Intelligence Agency