RECONNAISSANCE

Aircraft

Uses in the 1990s

Materials arranged chronologically.

Smith, Bruce A. "U-2/TR-1s Provided Critical Data to Theater Commanders." Aviation Week & Space Technology, 19 Aug. 1991, 60-61.

Mintz, John. "The Mystery Plane: If Anyone's Seen It, No One Is Talking." Washington Post National Weekly Edition, 21-27 Dec. 1992, 31.

Tuttle, Rich. "Airborne Sensors Draw New Interest." Aviation Week & Space Technology, 10 Jan. 1994, 61-62.

Dornheim, Michael A. "SR-71 Revived to Fill Intelligence Gap." Aviation Week & Space Technology, 10 Apr. 1995, 22-23.

Five years after the Air Force halted the program, Congress has given funding approval for the reactivation of two Lockheed SR-71 reconnaissance aircraft. "Senate leaders envision using the aircraft in a more tactical manner than before, and giving tasking and information distribution authority to local commanders.... The two SR-71s will operate as a detachment based at Edwards AFB, Calif., under their old organization, now called the 9th Reconnaissance Wing in Air Combat Command.... Reconnaissance satellites lack the flexibility and surprise of an aircraft, and the U-2 cannot penetrate defended airspace."

Aviation Week & Space Technology. Editors. "U-2s Deployed to French Base." 15 Jan. 1996, 61.

Covault, Craig. "USAF U-2 Satcom Link Employed in Bosnia Operation." Aviation Week and Space Technology, 26 Feb. 1996, 26.

USAF U-2 reconnaissance aircraft are relaying imaging radar data via satellite link back to Beale Air Force Base for processing. Beale then relays the processed intelligence back to theater commanders.

Dornheim, Michael A. "Air Force SR-71s Resume Operations." Aviation Week & Space Technology, 4 Nov. 1996, 30.

Fiscal 1997 funding has allowed the Air Force to resume operation of the SR-71.

Aviation Week & Space Technology. "[Editorial:] Grounding the SR-71 Was a Bad Move." 3 Nov. 1997, 70.

The editorial writer argues that President Clinton's use of the line-item veto to eliminate the SR-71 program was a mistake. The plane should be kept operational until something can take its place.

Air Force Magazine. Editors. "Blackbird." Feb. 1998, 54-61.

This feature article on the SR-71 includes a number of photographs.

Air Force News Service. "Air Force Retiring SR-71 Blackbirds." 27 Apr. 1998. [Available at: http://www.fas.org/irp/news/1998/04/n19980427_980558.html]

"The legendary SR-71 Blackbird, a pioneer in reconnaissance aircraft, will be permanently retired from Air Force operations. The decision follows the secretary of defense's approval March 6 to permanently retire the aircraft following the president's line-item veto of the Defense Appropriations Act in October."

Starr, Barbara. "High-Tech Eyes in the Sky Verify Kosovo Agreement: Snooping on the Serbs." ABCNEWS.com, 28 Oct. 1998. [http://www.abcnews.com]

"[N]ow that [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic has largely complied with NATO's demands to pull his troops out of Kosovo, the alliance is relying on a variety of high-tech satellites, spy planes and unmanned drones to make sure the Serbs don't slip back into the violence-wracked province....

"Topping the list of U.S. 'assets' is the venerable U-2.... The U-2's sensors provide a range of images including still pictures, video and infrared imagery.... The U-2 also carries rarely-discussed sensors that gather 'signals' intelligence. These sensors ... can gather data from Serb radars and eavesdrop on Serb military and police communications networks. Data gathered by the U-2 can be transmitted via satellite link to intelligence analysts in as little as four minutes.

"Also flying reconnaissance missions is ... the RC-135 Rivet Joint. This aircraft typically flies at some distance from Kosovo, cruising out over the Adriatic Sea to detect any electronic messages or activity from the Serbs. The Rivet Joint ... is armed with an array of sensors to eavesdrop on radio conversations or pick up signals from radars the Serbs may illegally activate. This would allow the Rivet Joint to send NATO aircraft immediate warnings about the location of threatening forces....

"The Predator Medium Altitude Endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) uses a number of sensors that allow it to fly over Kosovo and gather detailed information about tanks, vehicles and troops.... The drone's electro-optic sensors provide high- resolution images. An infrared sensor allows NATO to determine if tanks and other vehicles are actually running, and a high-tech synthetic aperture radar can penetrate night or bad weather. The Predator can also take and transmit live video to ground stations in Europe....

"The U.S. Air Force [also] relies on commercial [satellite] imagery from the French SPOT satellite, the Canadian RADARSAT and the U.S. Landsat.... U.S. forces can also avail themselves of a number of highly classified satellites.... The Mercury-Advanced Vortex is a 'signals intelligence' satellite capable of intercepting transmissions from radios, radars and other electronic networks. U.S. forces also rely on the KH-12 Lacrosse photographic intelligence satellite to gather pictures....

"The U.S. Navy is participating in the mission as well, with its P-3C Orion aircraft ... flying over Kosovo on a daily basis.... With the ability to stay aloft for 10 to 12 hours without refueling, the Orions will provide a continuing presence to supplement the other aircraft. The Orion is equipped with a synthetic aperture radar and an electro-optic camera system for both live video and radar images of the ground situation in Kosovo. The Orion can operate in all weather, day or night. A downlink to ground stations provides instant access to the intelligence gathered during a mission."

Chaisson, Kernan. "Airborne Surveillance Takes Command." Journal of Electronic Defense, Jan. 1999, 43-49.

ProQuest Abstract: "The Mid-Term Program for NATO's AWACS should give the aircraft up-to-date command-and-control capabilities that belie its aging 707 airframe. The JSTARS system is also discussed."

Peters, Brendan P. "Initial Phase of Radar Improvement Program for U-2 Completed." Journal of Electronic Defense, Feb. 1999, 30-31.

Raytheon Systems Co. "has completed the initial phase of the Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar System-2 (ASARS-2) Improvement Program of the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft."

North, David M. "U-2S Pilot Report: Venerable U-2 Forges on to Y2K and Beyond." Aviation Week & Space Technology, 12 Apr. 1999, 60-66.

Includes sidebar story, "Pilot Selection Process Arduous," p. 65.

The 45-year-old U-2 has benefited from some recent modifications "that should keep the Dragon Lady an effective high-altitude reconnaissance platform with the U.S. Air Force into 2020." There are currently 37 Lockheed-Martin U-2s in service -- 35 U-2Ss with the Air Force and Lockheed Martin and 2 ER-2s with NASA. The author flew one of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing's U-2ST trainers out of Beale AFB.

Newman, Richard J. "Scoping Serbian Targets from an Air Force Surveillance Jet." U.S. News & World Report, 3 May 1999, 38.

Two of the Air Force's four E-8C JSTARS (Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System) airplanes are now flying in the Kosovo theater of operations. Serbian tactics of intermixing military and civilian vehicles and the rugged terrain have reduced the effectiveness of the JSTARS' cloud-penetrating radar.

Verton, Daniel. "JSTARS Flies High over Yugoslavia." Federal Computer Week, 31 May 1999. [http://www.fcw.com]

A squadron of Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft has been deployed from the Air Force's 60th Air Expeditionary Wing, stationed at Rhein-Main Air Base in Germany, to the Balkans "to help pilots flying in support of NATO's Operation Allied Force locate, track and attack Serb army units. Using ... sophisticated radar sensors and data communications systems, JSTARS function as mobile surveillance, reconnaissance and control centers, detecting enemy tanks, trucks and other targets on the ground and directing fighter/attack aircraft to them."

Fulghum, David A. "New U-2 Production Pitched to Pentagon." Aviation Week & Space Technology, 6 Sep. 1999, 89.

"Lockheed Martin officials plan to brief the Pentagon about restarting low-rate production of U-2s for $100 million. They believe the company can build an improved reconnaissance aircraft for $20-25 million each, a decrease in the basic price from $30 million. Lockheed Martin estimates the Air Force needs at least 10 more aircraft."

Fulghum, David A. "Recce Funding Increase Pits U-2 Against Global Hawk." Aviation Week & Space Technology, 27 Sep. 1999, 37.

"[T]he hint of new defense spending has pitted Northrop Grumman's unmanned Global Hawk and Lockheed Martin's U-2.... Both the U-2 and Global Hawk can carry synthetic aperture radar, electro-optical and infrared cameras and signals intelligence (sigint) payloads. But each offers different advantages."

Wall, Robert. "Signit Upgrades Nearing Deployment." Aviation Week & Space Technology, 15 Nov. 1999, 98-99.

Signals intelligence upgrade for Rivet Joints.

Return to Recon Aircraft Table of Contents