LOCKHEED MARTIN is looking to re-open its U-2 reconnaissance-aircraft production line on the back of potential orders for the US Air Force and the Royal Air Force.

The company submitted a "data package" on the U-2 at the request of the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) in May. The U-2 will be considered as a candidate to meet the RAF's Airborne Stand-Off Radar (ASTOR) programme. The RAF's preferred solution for the ASTOR project is based around a business jet capable of carrying crew for onboard data processing.

The MoD funded two study contracts led by Raytheon, proposing the Canadair Global Express, and Lockheed Martin, offering the Gulfstream V. The results of these were submitted in the second quarter of 1996 (Flight International, 4-11 September).

If there is budgetary pressure on the ASTOR project then an off the shelf procurement of the U-2 could prove attractive. Senior Lockheed Martin executives suggest a six- aircraft package would cost about $300 million.

The company is also discussing the procurement of an additional batch of U-2s with the USAF. The USAF is faced with a limited number of aircraft for training, and there is also pressure on operational aircraft because of deployment requirements and attrition. The U-2 production line was closed in 1989, but the company says that it would be easy to restart.

Source: Flight International