Friday’s Food for Thought: The U-2 Spies on ISIS

The U-2 has been an icon in airborne ISR since the 1950s and now plays a key role in U.S. efforts to combat ISIS


Lockheed Martin’s U-2 “Dragon Lady” high-altitude intelligence vehicle has been an icon in airborne ISR since the 1950s. The U-2 has been upgraded numerous times since The Cold War era and is now equipped with advanced sensors and high-resolution cameras.

Today, the U-2 plays a key role in U.S. military efforts to combat ISIS as it snaps images from the stratosphere. This data helps pinpoint airstrikes on senior ISIS leaders, safe houses, weapons caches, and strongholds on the ground in places such as Mosul. The more accurate the intelligence, the less likely an airstrike is to cause collateral damage or civilian casualties.

CNN was recently given rare access to join a U-2 crew as it launched a surveillance mission from a classified location in the Middle East. According to the article, the U-2 operates at well above 70,000 feet—almost double the altitude of most commercial flights. For their own safety, pilots wear a compression suit similar to those worn for space expeditions. These suits must be continuously connected to a mobile cooling unit so the pilot doesn’t overheat in the extreme conditions—U-2 missions can be more than 10 hours.

The U-2 has become one of the Air Force’s key counterterrorism assets, but it isn’t alone in its efforts; UAVs such as the Global Hawk and MQ-9 Reaper play an important role as well.

Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force

Maps for a Vaccine Distribution

GIS mapping capabilities are essential to an equitable and speedy distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine

, ,

A National Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technologies

New White House strategy outlines ways to protect the nation's competitive edge in world-changing emerging technologies

, ,

Measuring the Earth’s Magnetic Field

NGA called upon solvers to submit novel approaches to geomagnetic data collection for WMM