Air Force News

U-2S/ER-2 aircraft earn 1998 Collier Trophy

Released: 12 Feb 1999

PALMDALE, Calif. (AFPN) -- The U-2S/ER-2 aircraft will receive the 1998 Robert J. Collier Trophy recognizing the top aeronautical achievement in the United States for 1998, according to the National Aeronautic Association.

Lockheed Martin Corporation and its partners, General Electric Corporation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Air Combat Command of the Air Force and the Defense Intelligence Agency, were recognized for "designing, manufacturing and operating the U-2S/ER-2 high-altitude, all-weather, multi-functional data collection aircraft, which serves as America's "Sentinel of Peace" around the world."

In announcing the selection, NAA President Don Koranda said, "Although the U-2 program has been in existence for a long time, this new version will substantially enhance the mission capabilities, performance and safety of this high-altitude aircraft well into the 21st century."

Established in 1911, the Collier Trophy is awarded annually for the greatest achievement in aeronautics and astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency and safety of air or space vehicles, the value of which has been thoroughly demonstrated by actual use during the preceding year. The trophy is considered the greatest and most prized of aeronautical honors in America.

This marks the fourth Collier Trophy win for the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. Previous Colliers were awarded for the F-104 Starfighter (1958), the A-11 (1963) and the F-117A Stealth Fighter (1989). It is the 10th Collier Trophy win for Lockheed Martin Corporation and its operating companies.

Conceived by famed Lockheed designer Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson, the U-2A first flew in 1955. By the time production ended in 1968, the design had evolved into the U-2R with an airframe about 40 percent larger that the original.

In 1980, the production line was restarted to accommodate an Air Force requirement for TR-1s for NATO missions and a NASA requirement for two ER-2s. All U-2R aircraft have now been converted to the U-2S configuration.

The first U-2S was delivered to the Air Force in October 1994. Besides a new, high-efficiency General Electric F118-GE-101 engine, all U-2S aircraft have been equipped with an improved electrical system, digital autopilot and an auxiliary spoiler activation system. Besides being larger, the new U-2S/ER-2 is twice as heavy and can carry four times the payload as its predecessor.

In 1998, Air Force-operated U-2S high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft and its NASA variant, the ER-2, combined to claim four altitude and payload records. Three of the records were previously held by aircraft from the Soviet Union, and the fourth is a new world record. The aircraft used were not specially modified variants, but standard mission-configured aircraft conducting routine flights.

The total U-2S/ER-2 inventory consists of 37 aircraft that together flew more than 13,640 hours in 1998 without any accidents, making 1998 the safest year in U-2 history. With a modular payload design, the aircraft is also very versatile and has been used by several different customers including NASA, the U.S. military, Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Drug Enforcement Agency, universities and many others.

Operational Air Force U-2s are operated by Air Combat Command. Home base is the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., with four forward operating sites worldwide.

NASA operates the ER-2 from their Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB, Calif. ER-2s are used for a wide variety of earth resources-related programs.


** The U-2S
** Robert J. Collier Trophy
** Air Combat Command
** National Aeronautics & Space Administration
** National Aeronautic Association