Lockheed Martin developing U-2 spy plane successor, report says


A U-2 ‘Dragon Lady’ aircraft takes off from Osan Air Base, South Korea in this U.S. Air Force handout photo taken on October 21, 2009. (REUTERS/U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson/Handout)

Lockheed Martin is developing a successor to the U.S. military’s legendary U-2 surveillance plane, according to a media report.

Flightglobal reports that Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs, better known as Skunk Works, is planning a new version of the U-2.

“Think of a low-observable U-2,” Lockheed’s U-2 strategic development manager Scott Winstead told Flightglobal. “It’s pretty much where the U-2 is today, but add a low-observable body and more endurance.”

“Skunk Works has a long tradition of thinking ahead and coming up with solutions to challenges; this is how the U-2 was originally conceived,” added a Skunk Works spokeswoman, in an e-mail to FoxNews.com, noting that the U-2 is set to retire in 2019. “While we have not been asked to create a concept, we are looking at design options for a true next-gen ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance] platform, keeping with the tradition of thinking ahead.”

Nicknamed the Dragon Lady, the U-2 is one of the longest serving aircraft in the U.S. Air Force. Like the B-52 bomber, the U-2 first took the skies for the U.S. military in the 1950s. Ever since then, the plane has played a crucial role.

A high-altitude manned surveillance plane, it can fly twice the altitude of a commercial plane flying for 12 hours above 70,000 feet. The U-2 can also reach speeds of more than 475 mph.

Flying 13 miles above the earth’s surface, it can carry two and a half tons of the most advanced sensors and communications equipment in the world.

Reaching such high altitudes helps to make it an extremely effective reconnaissance platform.  In fact, the U-2 flies so high that pilots wear spacesuits and have to breathe from an oxygen tank.

It was designed in secret at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works during the Cold War for important tasks like locating missile threats in Russia.

The aircraft’s design was so extraordinary that it has remained an invaluable military platform for six decades. The U-2 is on duty almost every hour of every day, the company says.

According to Lockheed, the U-2 has a highly consistent mission success rate of over 95% across all Combatant Commands.

The 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, California is home to the aircraft, but there are also detachments all over the world.


Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at wargames@foxnews.com or follow her on Twitter@Allison_Barrie.

originally available here

Texas teen in good condition after plummeting over 3,000 feet in skydiving accident

Associated Press

A 16-year-old Texas girl who plummeted more than 3,000 feet to the ground in an Oklahoma skydiving accident survived and is recovering from her many injuries, a doctor said Tuesday.

Dr. Jeffrey Bender, a trauma surgeon at OU Medical Center who treated Makenzie Wethington when she was flown Saturday from a skydiving school in Chickasha, said the girl hurt her liver and broke her pelvis, lumbar spine in her lower back, a shoulder blade and several ribs. She also has a broken tooth.

“I don’t know the particulars of the accident as I wasn’t there. But if she truly fell 3,000 feet, I have no idea how she survived,” Bender said at a news conference at the hospital, where the girl’s parents also spoke to reporters.

Not only did she survive, but she was in good condition Tuesday, Bender said, and was expected to leave the intensive care unit. Still, she has a long recovery ahead. Bender said it will be several weeks before she can bear any weight.

The girl’s parents agreed to let her perform the jump, but her father, Joe Wethington, now says the skydiving company shouldn’t have allowed it.

“I don’t think she should have been allowed at 16 to go up there and perform that type of jump, no matter what I say or she says, she shouldn’t have been allowed,” Joe Wethington said at the news conference. “I find it very hard to believe that the rules and regulations in Oklahoma are that lax. I think there is a flaw there somewhere, and I don’t think it’s through the state of Oklahoma. I think it’s the company. I’m not sure.”

Nancy Koreen, director of sport promotion at the Fredericksburg, Va.-based U.S. Parachute Association, said its safety requirements allow someone who is 16 to make a dive with parental consent, though some drop zones set the age higher.

Robert Swainson, the owner and chief instructor at Pegasus Air Sports Center in Chickasha, defended the company Tuesday. He noted that the father went up with his daughter and was the first to jump.

Makenzie, from Joshua, Texas, was making a static-line jump, where a parachute is connected to a lanyard that’s attached to the plane and opens automatically when a diver exits the plane.

Swainson said Wethington’s parachute opened OK, but she began to spiral downward when the chute went up but not out in some kind of malfunction. Swainson said a parachute can develop such a turn for several reasons, but that Wethington and other divers were given instruction during a six-to-seven-hour training session beforehand on how to deal with such problems. He also said Makenzie had a radio hookup in her helmet through which someone gave her instructions.

“It was correctable, but corrective action didn’t appear to have been taken,” said Swainson, who has run the skydiving business for nearly 30 years.

Swainson said he did not jump out to help Wethington because there’s no way he could have reached her and another jumper got cold feet and refused to make the jump. Swainson said it was protocol for him to remain with the frightened person because instructors don’t know what that person will do.

“The most I could have done is screamed,” he said.

Koreen, from the U.S. Parachute Association, spoke generally about skydiving rules and didn’t want to directly comment on Makenzie’s case. However, she agreed that a reluctant diver can’t be left alone in a plane and that even if an instructor exited the plane, he wouldn’t have been able to assist the student.

“You can’t fly over the parachute and help somebody,” she said.

Eerie photos show French village turned ghost town by popular airport




Photographs show ghost town created by Charles de Gaulle Airport


The small French farming village of Goussainville-Vieux Pays, just 12 miles north of Paris, remained relatively unchanged for centuries. When Charles de Gaulle Airport opened in the 1970s, residents found themselves living right underneath the flight path. Fleeing the noise, they left behind a ghost town. Reuters photographer, Charles Platiau, photographed the abandoned town and used early 20th century postcards of the exact same sites to show a series of eerie comparisons.


When Charles de Gaulle Airport opened in the 1970s, residents of the small French farming village of Goussainville-Vieux Pays found themselves living right underneath the flight path.

Fleeing the noise, they left behind a ghost town, reports Reuters.

Goussainville-Vieux Pays, just 12 miles north of Paris, is so close to Charles de Gaulle Airport that the town is technically considered part of the runway approach.

The popular airport hosted nearly 500,000 takeoffs and landingscombined just last year, creating the constant sound of jet noise for the few residents who remained.

In an effort to chart the change in the small village, which prior to the airport’s arrival remained relatively unaltered for centuries, Reuters photographer, Charles Platiau, photographed the abandoned town and used early 20th century postcards of the exact same sites to show a series of eerie comparisons.

Take a look at his images in the slideshow above.