Lockheed Martin is offering the US Air Force (USAF) a new spyplane the TR-X. It will be a stealthy, optionally manned high-altitude intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) platform as a replacement for its U-2.
The Lockheed U-2, nicknamed “Dragon Lady”, is a single-jet engine, ultra-high altitude reconnaissance aircraft operated by the United States Air Force (USAF) and previously flown by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It provides day and night, very high-altitude (70,000 feet; 21,000 m), all-weather intelligence gathering. The U-2 has also been used for electronic sensor research, satellite calibration, and communications purposes.
In late 2014, Lockheed Martin proposed an unmanned U-2 version with greater payload capability, but the concept did not gain traction with the USAF. In early 2015, the USAF was directed to restart modest funding for the U-2 for operations and research, development, and procurement through to FY 2018. The former head of the USAF Air combat Command, Gen. Mike Hostage helped extend the U-2S to ensure commanders receive sufficient ISR intelligence and support coverage; stating “it will take eight years before the RQ-4 Global Hawk fleet can support 90% of the coverage of the U-2 fleet. Although the RQ-4 is planned to replace the U-2 by 2019, Lockheed claims it can remain viable until 2050
The Air Force is looking to retire Lockheed’s U-2 Dragon Lady in 2019
the new aircraft would be a follow-on to both the manned U-2 and the unmanned Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk.
Lockheed is looking into increased power and cooling to accommodate new sensors, electronic warfare suites, and a more advanced communications system with the ability to communicate with both fourth and fifth-generation fighter jets, Winstead said. The plane will comply with the Air Force’s Open Mission Systems standards to keep up with technology advances, and may even employ offensive and defensive laser weapons in future.
SOURCES – Defense News, Wikipedia, Lockheed Martin