The U-2 spy plane made by the American Air Force manufacturer Lockheed Martin is one of the few journey aircraft from the early stages of the cold war that still are in active duty in the USAF at some level. Other vintage planes include SR-71 Blackbird and B-52 and they are still being used by the USAF in various operational capacities. Due to the large operational life cycles and usefulness of these aircraft, many of these designs are being revisited to make longevity-centered planes for the future military roles. U-2 is now in the plans to be revamped with the introduction of TR-X concept airplane which is a stealthier version and it is expected to enter service in about 10 years.
The new TR-X concept will have a wingspan of 103 feet with a cruising altitude of 475 mph which isnt that high considering the speed of jets nowadays. But, with a maximum ceiling of 70,000 feet which it can achieve in 45 minutes, according to the defense giant, the new aircrafts enhanced ceiling and payload capacity will help the Air Force for years to come.
Despite an extremely successful and prolonged career, the last U-2s will definitely be phased out in 2019 at the latest. With the introduction of long range drones, the Air Force isnt in a hurry to look for a replacement but Lockheed is confident that it can change the military wings mindset and improve chances of introducing this. It will have new safer systems, Laser weaponry and revolutionary mission architecture. Another important aspect of TR-X is that it will have an automated option as well so that certain missions that are too dangerous with the pilot in can be avoided.
Scott Winstead, the Lockheeds business manager for the TR-X understands the challenges but he is willing to take it up with the USAF. It is also supposed to be a replacement for Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk.