Researchers at military contractor Lockheed Martin are looking to the past for inspiration about the future of spying. To be specific, they want to make a modern-day version of the 1950s spy plane U-2, which played a key role in some of the biggest crises of the past few decades.
The Cuban missile crisis in the early 1960s? The surveillance photos were taken with a U-2. As Popular Science notes, this run of surveillance planes has been a stalwart for decades, and now Lockheed Martin is trying to build its successor. Plus, with the remaining U-2 fleet set to be retired by the U.S. Air Force in 2019, the clock is ticking.
For the 2.0 version, Lockheed Martin is reportedly aiming for longer flight times and a more stealthy body design. While an unmanned drone design might seem like the most obvious route, Lockheed Martin’s head of U-2 strategic development told Flight Global they believe there are still some inherent benefits to having a pilot inside a reconnaissance craft. The biggest, aside from having a human mind at the controls to make quick decisions? It’ll serve as a “deterrent” to countries that might want to shoot it down. Taking out a drone is one thing. But a craft with a U.S. soldier in it? That’s a little different.
Plus, though the U.S. military does use quite a few drones, it's important to continue producing cutting-edge aircraft designed for humans to pilot. It seems the U-2 could fit that bill in this regard, and keep the legacy alive for a few more decades to boot.
(Via Popular Science)