The upgrade of the Lockheed Martin U-2S avionics and principal sensor is gaining momentum with the start of testing of the improved Raytheon Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar System 2 (ASARS-2) and the recent selection and order of improved systems.

Flight validation of an improved high-resolution reconnaissance radar has started at Palmdale, California, following the completion of mode and onboard processing tests late last year. Production versions of upgraded ASARS-2 will enter service with the US Air Force's 35 U-2Ss late next year.

The ASARS-2 improvement programme has adopted commercial off-the-shelf software to provide better real time precision targeting, broad area synoptic coverage, imagery for measurement of intelligence applications and ground moving target indication.

A Power PC-based Mercury RACE multicomputer system will also be fitted to provide onboard, instead of ground based, processing. The Chelmsford, Massachusetts-based company has won an $11 million production contract for the system.

Meanwhile, AlliedSignal has delivered the first upfront control display and control panel to Lockheed Martin's Palmdale plant for the start of laboratory integration testing.

The USAF Reliability Avionics Maintainability Program calls for aircraft integration testing to start next February, followed by flight validation in the third quarter.

The new avionics suite incorporates two new ADC 200x255mm (8x10in) active matrix liquid crystal displays; an interactive communications and navigation control panel, with large push buttons designed for use with pressure gloves, a Lockheed Martin Federal System avionics processor and the Aztec global positioning system. The first operational aircraft will be modified in 2001.

Source: Flight International