First flight dates back to 1 August 1955 and on the most famous of the spy planes is perhaps not yet ready to go to the case. Lockheed Martin offers to convert the appliance in drone, or rather PHSP and thus compete with the rival Northrop-Grumman Global Hawk reconnaissance drone. Because the U-2 designed by the brilliant engineer “Kelly” Johnson and his team of the Skunk Works demonstrated performance still the same extraordinary 60 years after its first flight.
A U-2 drone could compete with the RQ-4 Global Hawk
He entered the legend of aviation when Gary Power, during a flight over the USSR shot down by a Soviet missile. For the first time, the invincible U-2 had been intercepted by the Russian after making dozens of flights with impunity over the Soviet Russia, the countries of the Warsaw Pact and, although obviously Cuba.
It is that this plane off-standard, with a ceiling of 70,000 flight feet was totally out of reach of the MiGs of the time. Even today its performance outperform those of its competitors, including drone Global Hawk from Northrop-Grumman, his designated successor. An exception, however, the endurance. The drone can align 24 hours without flinching while can hardly ask the pilot to U – 2 to align more than 12 hours, as this reaction glider flying is deemed difficult. Where the idea of Lockheed-Martin to transform the U-2 existing UAVs, or RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems) more specifically, aircraft piloted remotely. According to the Aviation Week article that reveals the proposal of Lockheed-Martin, the industrialist estimated $ 700 million to the price of the «dronisation» of the first 3 U2 and 2 ground control stations.
The unit cost would be then between 35 and 40 million dollars per unit. By comparison, the RQ-4 Global Hawk program represented an investment of $ 13.9 billion, for a unit cost more than 210 million dollars per unit. The Global Hawk, less expensive than the U2 by the hour ($2,400 compared to $3,200) would lose this advantage over the U2 unmanned.
The US Air Force and the U.S. Congress is they leave tempted by keep the U2 in flight because this subtle manoeuvre of Lockheed-Martin to outdo the Global Hawk? It seems unlikely, and yet the USAF has just sent his A-10 “Warthog” in Iraq, an aircraft yet theoretically sentenced to the benefit of the Reaper drones…
Translation : Bing Translator
“Iconic Cold War Spyplane May Get A Drone Makeover”, Popular Science, November 26, 2014
“Lockheed Updates Unmanned U-2 Concept”, Aviation Week, November 24, 2014