The U.S. Air Force may use system upgrades for the Lockheed Martin [LMT] U-2S Dragon Lady reconnaissance aircraft on other platforms.

Such upgrades include the Raytheon Technologies‘ [RTX] Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar System-2B (ASARS-2B) radar and the the Global High-altitude Open-system Sensor Technology (GHOST) for signals intelligence. ASARS-2B is to double the range of the Raytheon ASARS-2A radar, carried in the nose of some U-2s.

“ASARS[-2B] and GHOST –we’re designing those with open system, open architecture considerations for the ability to potentially use those on other platforms or future platforms, as able and as needed,” Air Force Col. William Rogers, Program Executive Officer for Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Special Operations Forces at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio said during an Aug. 3 Zoom briefing in response to a question.

“Both those are moving forward,” Rogers said of ASARS-2B and GHOST.  The Air Force has awarded three contractors funding to build Phase I initial prototypes for GHOST–a middle tier acquisition program, he said.

While the Air Force fiscal 2022 budget said that the service plans to divest its U-2s by 2026, Hodges said that his office is still planning to sustain the fleet through the 2030s, if needed.

The Air Force has embarked on efforts to ensure continued relevance for the service’s fleet of 31 U-2s.

For example, the Air Force used an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm–ARTUµ–by Booz Allen Hamilton [BAH] in a U-2 flight last Dec. 15 to steer the U-2’s ASARS-2A radar by Raytheon and to navigate the plane in what the Air Force said was the first time AI has commanded a military system, (Defense Daily, Dec. 16, 2020).

The flight came in support of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing’s U-2 Federal Laboratory at Beale AFB, Calif.

The ASARS-2B program “replaces the front end components” of the ASARS-2A “to alleviate reduction in current ASARS-2A capability starting in FY ’21 [fiscal 2021] due to significant diminishing manufacturing sources and material shortages (DMSMS) issues,” the Air Force has said.