A Bridge to the Future

How the Avionics Tech Refresh Contract Enables the U-2S to Bridge to the Future Battlespace

If you consider the most significant difference between life today and life twenty years ago, you may find yourself thinking about technology — widespread use of the internet, smart phones and GPS. But it’s more than technological advancement; it’s connectedness and the ability to share information where and when you want to.

Each and every day brings new advancements, enabling us to connect, collaborate and communicate more efficiently than ever before. Greater access to information brings greater connection, knowledge and power across the globe. The same principle applies to the battlespace.

Today, the U-2 Dragon Lady is not only ensuring global security 24/7/365 as the most capable, high-altitude intelligence surveillance reconnaissance (ISR) system in the fleet, but it’s also helping to bridge to the Air Force’s vision for the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS), a program that will bring to life the ‘internet of things’ for the military.

In the future, no battle will be fought on a single battlefield. Connectivity will be crucial. ABMS means total battlespace awareness and dominance, with every warfighter and system operating across the sea, ground, air, space and cyber domains sharing critical information instantaneously.

The ATR upgrades, highlighted in boxes above, will prepare the U-2 for additional modernization efforts that will provide a quantum leap in capability for the warfighter and a bridge to capabilities needed in the future battlespace.

The Avionics Tech Refresh contract provides the Dragon Lady with key upgrades that will bring us much closer to this future. These modernization efforts include:

  • A new avionics system that enables the U-2 to integrate with systems across air, space, sea, land and cyber domains at disparate security levels.
  • A new mission computer designed to the U.S. Air Force’s open mission systems (OMS) standard to easily and rapidly upgrade software and capabilities.
  • New, modern cockpit displays to make everyday pilot tasks easier, while enhancing presentation of the data the aircraft collects to enable faster, better informed decisions.

The result? Greater connectivity and greater battlespace awareness for the warfighter to complete their mission at the speed required in today’s evolving threat environment. The U-2 will also be the first fully OMS compliant fleet, providing the ability to plug-and-play new capabilities quickly and affordably to support ABMS.

Lockheed Martin is leading the design, integration and testing of the new advanced aircraft components, leveraging years of proven experience in rapid systems integration and fielding capabilities.

Meet a Skunk: Engineer Spotlight

Software engineer, Dewey Williams, is supporting U-2’s bridge to the future and works at our facility in Fort Worth. Dewey works as a systems architect for Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® Enterprise Open System Architecture (E-OSA) team. He helps design and implement OSA solutions that combine hardware and software to solve complex computing challenges faced by our current and future air platforms.

Q: What is your favorite part about your job?

A: Our team specializes in rapidly taking advanced capabilities from initial concept to flight test and fielding, so I get to be hands-on during all phases of development and delivery, which is very exciting!

Q: When you were growing up, what did you want to be?

A: As I was growing up, jobs I envisioned for my future were mad scientist, fighter pilot and engineer. I like to think this job is all three rolled into one.

Q: What do you enjoy most about supporting the U-2 mission?

A: I love the history of the U-2, learning about all the amazing things the aircraft is capable of, and the value it provides to the warfighter today. Most of all, I love that after so many years, it continues to have many tricks up its sleeve!

Q: What advice do you have for students looking for an opportunity in STEM? 

A: Branch out and learn as much as you can outside your technical swim lane. Doing small projects at home is great for this! Even if you’re not an expert in every topic, knowing a little bit about a lot of different areas can really help you bridge gaps and work effectively in teams.