“The Multi-Function Displays can be configured to display information the pilot desires in the layout they prefer,” he explained. “Examples of information include altitude and navigation information, engine performance, moving map with mission course overlay, electronic checklists, diagnostic information on all aircraft systems and reconnaissance sensors, and multiple radio frequencies and settings.”
Trading in an old-fashioned typewriter for a shiny, new, cutting-edge computer may better illustrate the upgrade from the Block 10 to the Block 20.
“The Block 10 was a classic cockpit with round dials. Information was spread all around the cockpit and not easily readable by a pilot wearing a full pressure suit,” the commander said.
“It is extremely difficult to look around a cockpit while wearing the full pressure suit and helmet, so this "up-front" design of the Block 20 makes it easier for the pilot to read information while flying an aircraft that requires a pilot's full attention always,” Hoffman emphasized.
Due to the U-2’s high-altitude mission, pilots must wear the full pressure suit and helmet, which are similar to those astronauts wear in space.
The U-2, which has provided high-altitude reconnaissance for more than 50 years, has one of the highest mission completion rates in the U.S. Air Force despite the fact that the aircraft is the most difficult to fly due to its unusually challenging takeoff and landing characteristics.
“It’s a very complicated aircraft. Depending on configuration, you may have 10 to 30 people needed to launch the U-2,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Ramsey Sharif, a U-2 pilot from Beale Air Force Base, Calif., who is temporarily assigned at Osan.
“A mobile pilot is in charge of getting the pilot airborne and back to the ground,” he noted. “They act as a safety observer and ensure a safe launch and recovery.”
The U-2 is the most difficult to land aircraft in the Air Force inventory. The landing gear configuration is unique; therefore, people may be familiar with the “chase car” concept.
Typically, a second U-2 pilot, the mobile pilot, is designated as the mission's backup pilot who waits in a high-performance chase car at the end of the runway as the aircraft makes it landing approach.
As the U-2 passes, the chase car follows it at high speed, with the “mobile” calling out the aircraft's altitude via radio to the pilot.