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What America Needs From Its Next Great Spy Plane

The U-2 SPY plane, aka the “Dragon Lady,” has been spying on America’s enemies for nearly 60 years. The single-jet reconnaissance plane is completely badass, flying at 70,000 feet and playing a role in some of the most famous—and infamous—incidents of the Cold War. ( More...

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preacher1 1
I guess I'm partial to the "Aspen" group but seems to me that 70000 feet got shot down rather easily. I think higher and faster is needful, then stealth wouldn't matter. If a long loiter is planned, unmanned option is good. Bring back the Blackbird.
jbqwik 1
Stealth was/is part and parcel of the technology line we walked to keep our feet stepping ahead of our enemies. While it does appear stealth has been diminished, the learning curve was necessary and still is useful.

As to the speed argument, both slow and fast have their place; history repeats: There is no one-size-fits-all (think F-35).

Note about the SR-71: While it could -and did- go faster than reported, it's absolute top speed was never determined: To do so would have risked a highly valuable, irreplaceable asset. Mach "4.6"? Doubtful. Mach 3.5(+)? Yes.
Alan Brown 1
I have to agree about the Blackbird. It was rated to at least 85000 ft and Mach 4.6. If it couldn't out climb it, it could out fly it. Superior to the U-2 in many many ways, but more expensive to maintain also. Will probably still be better that the TR-X, but it will be too late to find out.
Tim Marks 1
Sources? Or just speculation on the Mach 4.6? 3500MPH is hypersonic territory and as brilliant as Kelly Johnson and Pratt & Whitney were at developing one of the greatest aircraft flying, Mach 4.6 is not within the technology of the SR-71 - Mach 3.6 is within the realm of realistic speed for the Blackbird.
preacher1 1
IDK about 4.6 but the top speed was never made public so we just don't know but it was fast.
Alan Brown 1
The best source that I can give you is the baseball caps worn by the mechanics for the SR-71s that were based at Kadena AFB in Okinawa during the Vietnam war. Their hats said 85K plus and 4.6 plus. Maybe I am mis-remembering it (always a possibility after this many years) but I don't think so. Those types of numbers tend to stick with you.
Does anyone really think that the US actually got rid of the SR-71 without a replacement that was already flying?
When the US went into Kuwait,a friend of mine said that the US was going to get their collective asses kicked because the US had sold Iraq all of their weapons.
My question at the time was the same. Do you think the US is stupid enough to sell them the very latest weapons, and not have something better? As we know, I was proven right.
Whatever they have, it will be ultra secret, and in very black ops.
preacher1 1
Not even sure it is gone.
Alan Brown 1
I tend to agree about the Blackbird still being flying. Granted they have parked a few, but there is still a need for the bird, so there are probably 2 or 3 that are operational and flying without fanfare.
I also have to agree that they won't be fully retired until the replacement (See:Aurora) is on site and operational.


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