U-2 spy plane completes first flight with updated avionics package

Iconic reconnaissance aircraft now features the ATR package, which consists of new displays and systems integrated with the US Air Force

Lockheed Martin, through its Skunk Works division, performed the first flight of a U-2S DragonFly aircraft equipped with the ATR (Avionics Tech Refresh) package, designed to make it more capable and integrated with US Air Force systems.

The ATR consists of an upgraded suite of avionics for communications, navigation and cockpit displays. With them, the iconic U-2 is capable of absorbing new technologies within the USAF’s open systems standard, known by the acronym OMS.

According to Lockheed, the U-2’s new mission computer is capable of integrating with air, space, sea, land and cyber domain systems at various levels of security.

The new touch screens also allow for a more efficient presentation of data to the pilot, who can make faster and more informed decisions.

“The successful first flight of the U-2 Avionics Tech Refresh is a significant moment in our journey to rapidly and affordably field new capabilities,” said Sean Thatcher, U-2 Avionics Tech Refresh program manager at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. “Leveraging the platform’s open architecture, we’re expediting these capabilities needed for the future Joint All-Domain Operations battlespace.”

U-2 cockpit (LM)

The U-2 will be the USAF’s first aircraft fully compatible with the OMS architecture, once ongoing testing is completed and the fleet is upgraded.

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The contract for the conversion of the U-2s was signed in 2020 at a value of US$50 million. The Air Force intends to turn the spy plane famous in the Cold War into a control and command platform, taking advantage of around 30 units manufactured between the 80s and 90s and which only flew a quarter of their airframes’ useful life.


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