Thursday, January 28, 2010

U-2 to provide imagery support in Haiti

A U-2 taxies down the flightline Jan. 27, 2010 at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., in preparation for takeoff to Robins Air Force Base, Ga. The U-2 will provide critical imagery support in the ongoing humanitarian relief mission in Haiti. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Craig Cisek)

by Tech. Sgt. Luke Johnson
9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs

1/28/2010 - BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS) -- A U-2 launched from Beale Air Force Base Jan. 27 to provide critical imagery support in the ongoing humanitarian relief mission in Haiti.

The aircraft, temporarily flown out of Robins AFB, Ga., will be used to gather high-quality imagery, broad area shots, which will eliminate the need to patch together smaller images gathered by other intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets currently operating in the Haiti.

"The capabilities of the U-2, with the optical bar camera provide superior imagery that is unsurpassed in many of the reconnaissance platforms flying today," said Maj. Lans Courtney from the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron. "It's also going to fill in the pieces that were not found earlier by other platforms."

The images provided by the U-2 will give decision makers on the ground a broad picture when deciding on how to get help to those who need it the most.

"Some of the imagery we will be providing will be able to show them what roads will be usable so that they can find what areas are accessible on the ground via vehicles," Major Courtney said. "Also, they will be able to prioritize to see what type of areas have been hit the hardest and hopefully this will expedite how quickly they can get in and out of the worst areas in Haiti."

Routinely flown at altitudes nearing 70,000 feet, the U-2 is a single-seat, single-engine, high-altitude, ISR aircraft, which provides signals, imagery and electronic measurements and signature intelligence. The U-2 is capable of gathering a variety of imagery which can be stored or sent to ground exploitation centers.

"Having the pilot in the cockpit of the U-2 provides some capabilities that might not be available in other platforms, one of which being able to flex the mission on the fly," the major said. For instance, if there are individuals on the ground that we can talk to real time that request imagery that is time-critical or time-sensitive, we might be able to accommodate those requests immediately and provide imagery as quickly as possible."

Major Courtney emphasized the mission is not solely about the U-2 pilot.

"I think its key and important that a lot of different individuals from Beale have all come together to support the humanitarian efforts in Haiti, to include the maintenance group, the intelligence squadrons as well as all the support assets and individuals that went to Georgia in preparation for the arrival of the U-2 and subsequent humanitarian missions over Haiti," he said.