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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The legendary spy plane will get a new goal

One of the most famous spy planes, it seems, will get a second life. United States discuss the development of a new version of U-2 – the man who was shot down over the USSR in 1960. The role of the new unit will not is to track Russian territory, but without work it will not stay.

One of the most vivid symbols of global confrontation between the two superpowers that had marked the second half of the twentieth century was the spy plane U-2 with its well-recognizable appearance. Long narrow wings, short fuselage, narrow, elongated nose, black-blue color to be less noticeable on the background of the space to which boundaries he regularly approached closer than most other aircraft. However, the U-2 is famous not only that. Last year it was his seventh decade and his longevity is only rivaled American four-engine transport C-130 “Hercules”.

Range 19 km/h the pilots themselves the U-2 was called the “coffin corner”, because the output beyond either side threatened a serious violation of the aerodynamics of the aircraft and its subsequent possible destruction”

This single-engine single 18-ton jet aircraft is actually a glider with a jet engine. So, it is very popular in flying clubs glider “Blanik” is able from the height of one kilometer, moving with the best speed to fly 28 miles, and U-2 (of course, with the engine off) is just five kilometers less. This model was developed by the firm “Lockheed” – a group of designers under the leadership of Kelly Johnson and designed to perform reconnaissance missions at altitudes exceeding 20 km and Its first flight U-2 made in 1955, after which it was repeatedly modified. The last vehicles were delivered to the US air force in 1989, and in 1994 military command conducted global, worth $ 1.7 billion modernization of all existing U-2, after which they are called U-2S. This modification was again upgraded in 2012. the flight Range of the latest variants of the car reaches about 11 000 km.

Oceanic whitetip spy is not just part of history, sometimes he did. Suffice it to recall that the result of the flight of U-2 over Soviet territory on 1 may 1960, when the plane was shot down and the pilot Francis Gary powers is taken prisoner, was the break of personal relations between Nikita Khrushchev and U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the failure of disarmament negotiations and significant cooling of U.S.-Soviet relations in General. And the destruction of the U-2 over Cuba in 1962 almost provoked American intervention.

Subsequently, technological progress is greatly offset by the advantages of the winged spy. After the incident on 1 may 1960, it became clear that altitude the U-2, which reached 21 kilometers, more does not protect it either from missile attacks or from Soviet fighters. For some time the “baton” the U-2 was intercepted by ultra-fast and super-high SR-71, made his first flight in 1964 (his “father” – all the same famous Kelly Johnson), but it was justice in a MiG-25. In addition, the U-2 has proved extremely expensive to operate (the cost per flight hour reached 200 thousand dollars), which was one of the reasons why the U.S. air force in 1999 refused its further use. Finally, began to develop space exploration that enables the use of satellites and manned objects to survey huge areas without any danger for the observing system.

There is another circumstance in which the U.S. air force would like to replace the U-2. In their opinion, from the point of view of piloting it is the most difficult plane in the world.

The first difficulty is to manage this machine to its working height. To make the established level flight at such high altitude, the earlier versions of the U-2 had to go at a speed that in the atmosphere only at 19 km/h more stall speed (is the speed limit below which the aircraft can not continue horizontal flight). Range 19 km/h the pilots themselves the U-2 was called the “coffin corner”, because the output beyond either side threatened a serious violation of the aerodynamics of the aircraft and its subsequent possible destruction.

The second difficulty in piloting the U-2 at low altitudes. There the air is noticeably tighter, meaning that oceanic whitetip car becomes very difficult to manage (especially considering the fact that the hydraulic actuators on the rudder she is not). The third challenge is closely linked with the second: the pilot has to exert considerable physical effort to pilot the aircraft, and being dressed in a bulky jumpsuit for stratospheric flights.

The fourth is to a specific landing characteristics, in particular the limited visibility to the front due to the elongated nose of the scout, which deteriorates the visibility of the runway during approach it directly before landing. Because of this feature of the landing U-2 is often accompanied by another aircraft, the pilot of which (also having experience of flying the U-2 helped to pilot the “air spy” to determine the height and accuracy of the approach. A car moving at a speed of 190 km/h, in turn, accompanied by civilian U-2, designed for high-altitude research.

The fifth challenge relates to the fact that the crew of the U-2 consists of one pilot who, quite naturally, after a long flight tired much more than his colleagues, making a shorter departures or separating the functions of flying the aircraft with other members of the crew. It also increases the chances of error during the control of the machine.

Meanwhile, the experience of military conflicts has shown that space exploration can’t replace your old aerial reconnaissance. Indeed, the spy satellite is not able to patrol over the command of the interest object, while the U-2 can do it for hours. In addition, costly winged scout is still worth disproportionately less than its outer counterpart. Therefore, in the beginning of the XXI century, American strategists are realizing that the U-2 is obsolete in principle, began to think about how to find a decent replacement for him.

The first bell signaled that the U-2 can send to “retire”, was made in 2005, when the Pentagon decided to gradually withdraw the U-2 out of operation since 2007 – so that all these machines were scrapped already by 2012. They had to replace the single-engine unmanned jet machine RQ-4B Global Hawk. Both aircraft have close to each other size-weight and performance characteristics and bear a similar surveillance equipment. But the Global Hawk advantage, in case of defeat the defenses of the enemy he eliminates the risk of losing the pilot. Moreover, automation, which he managed, never tired.” This allows the winged robot to stay aloft for 42 hours, whereas the time of flight U-2 due to the presence on Board of a man limited to 12 hours.

UAVs like Global Hawk have already received a successful baptism of fire in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their flight characteristics of the winged robot also demonstrated non-stop flights across the Atlantic and the Pacific ocean. During the day it can fly and transmit information on the territory of 150 thousand square kilometres (half the territory of Italy). Through communication satellites pictures go to the command post in near real time. While fully dressed winged robot weighs 14 and a half tons, almost four tons less than the U-2.

However, despite all the advantages of the RQ-4 Global Hawk, the U.S. Congress approved a bill that was supposed to send U-2 “retired”. The refusal was made on the grounds that the U.S. currently there is no system which could adequately replace the U-2. With the inhabitants of Capitol hill agreed and some members of the U.S. air force, who believe that the U-2 can cope better with high intelligence than the Global Hawk. Despite this, the air force planned to begin decommissioning the U-2 in 2019, but Congress rejected these intentions, at least up until the Global Hawk will demonstrate the ability to carry on your key reconnaissance equipment of the U-2.

Attempts to create a system that can replace the U-2, continued and led to the adoption of Solomon solutions is to make a hybrid of the U-2 and RQ-4. The company “Lockheed Martin” just apart planes U-2 and Global Hawk, and then connect them in a single aircraft. If the U.S. government approve the plan, the program of “hybridization” will last 10 years and will cost $ 3.8 billion. Her result puts the appearance 30 altitude reconnaissance type TR-X is able to fly, in both manned and unmanned. According to the representative of “Lockheed Martin” Scott Winstead, when creating the TR-X will be used up to 90% systems and 80% of the aircraft designs the U-2 and Global Hawk, including the engine-2. We also consider the variant in which the TR-X will rise to a height of over 23 miles, but it will require the use of two rather than one engine.

The idea of such hybridization is not new. At the end of the Second world war, the pilots of the Luftwaffe used bombers Ju-88 as controlled unmanned flying bombs, and the Soviet Union created an anti-ship missile KS-1 on the basis of the MiG-15. Currently, the American company Stratolaunch is building the biggest airplane in the world, consisting of two “Boeing-747”. This car will be used as a flying spaceport for launching rockets into orbit.

In the opinion of program managers TR-X, it is unlikely to be implemented before 2020, and the most realistic date is 2024. In this case, the hybrids will go into service with the US air force in 2030. While the U-2 will continue its service after 2024, or, at least, up until the last aircraft of this type does not crash your resource on the airframe, as defined in 75 000 flight hours.

TR-X are unlikely to apply over the territories of countries with developed defense systems. However, they can be used effectively in local conflicts such as in Syria or Iraq, where they would not be threatened by any missile or interceptor enemy (that Russia is radically intensifying its aerial reconnaissance in Syria, the newspaper VIEW wrote earlier). The ability of the long-winged high-altitude reconnaissance for hours, if not days to “hang” on the interesting areas makes them a valuable tool in the solution of tactical and sometimes strategic objectives.


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