New radar for U-2 fleet

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A U-2 Dragon Lady assigned to the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron prepares for a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve from Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.
Senior Airman Gracie Lee/US Air Force

Raytheon has announced it is developing a new version of the Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR-2) currently utilised on the US Air Force’s Lockheed Martin U-2S Dragon Lady high-altitude intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance aircraft; a programme that was started in 2015.

According to Raytheon’s announcement on March 25, 2019, the new ARSARS-2B radar will double the surveillance range of the current unit, while maintaining the same mapping and imagery resolution capabilities.

The ASARS-2B is a (classified) long-range, high-resolution, near real-time, multimode, high resolution radar system designed to capture ground maps in all-weather conditions, day and night.

The current ASARS-2A system has eight operating modes; three search and five spot including moving-target search, movingtarget spot, stationary-target search and stationary-target spot, and several classified search modes. The ASARS-2B system has new maritime modes and the ability to simultaneously interleave modes.

This synthetic aperture radar has a dual planar array antenna oriented perpendicular to the U-2’s centreline for detection and location of stationary or moving targets on either side of the aircraft.

Detailed information can be captured from selected portions of the radar’s coverage area. Mapping can be captured on either side of the aircraft without need to change antenna orientation.

Operating from long standoff ranges, the ASARS-2 imagery and radar ground maps are of the highest resolution available to the US Department of Defense; ASARS- 2A captures imagery and mapping with resolutions between 3 metres and 1 metre in its search modes, and between 0.9 to 0.3 metres in its spot modes. All data is formatted and transmitted via wideband data link. ASARS-2 is a modular package installed within a Q-bay in the aircraft’s radome characterised by a cooling intake on top of the nose.

The work is being carried out under a $320 million undefined contract signed with the US Air Force.

Raytheon said the ASARS- 2B completed flight testing at Palmdale, California in early 2019. Raytheon’s Vice-President of Secure Sensor Solutions, Eric Ditmars, said: “ASARS-2B allows the Dragon Lady to see further than ever before. That kind of range is crucial for commanders to achieve decision superiority and it ensures that the U-2 remains a preferred option for manned airborne surveillance operations.”

All US Air Force U-2 Dragon Lady aircraft are assigned to Air Combat Command’s 9th Reconnaissance Wing based at Beale Air Force Base, California, operated by the 1st and 99th Reconnaissance Squadrons.

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Airmen remove pins from the pogo gear attached to a U-2 Dragon Lady at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. Pogo gear supports the aircraft’s wings during taxi and is removed prior to take-off.
Senior Airman Gracie Lee/US Air Force