BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS) —
The Air Force’s all-weather high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft, the Lady Dragon U-2, recently flew Beale Air Force Base latest optical bar camera assignment.
The The OBC mission, which captures high-altitude daylight photograph acquisition, will move to forward operating locations supported by the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. This decision allows the processors to consolidate the films closer to the reconnaissance collection required by the mission.
“This event closes a decades-long chapter for Beale AFB and film processing, and it opens another chapter in the digital world,” said Collins Aerospace Technical Support Specialist Adam Marigliani.
Collins Aerospace works alongside Beale AFB 9th Intelligence Squadron to download OBC imagery of U-2 worldwide missions in support of Air Force objectives.
The OBC mission operated from Beale AFB for nearly 52 years, with the first U-2 OBC deployed from Beale AFB in 1974. Taken from the SR-71the OBC was changed and the flight– Tested to support the U-2 platform, replacing the long-time IRIS sensor. While the 24-inch focal length of the IRIS provided extensive coverage, the 30-inch focal length of the OBC allowed for significantly greater resolution.
“The U-2 retains the capability to fly the OBC mission around the world and, if called upon, to perform in a dynamic force employment capability,” Lt. Col. James said. Gaiser, commander of the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron.
The OBC deployed to support various missions, including Hurricane Katrina, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant incident, as well as operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa.
When operating over Afghanistan, the U-2 took imagery of the entire country every 90 days, and MoD units used OBC imagery to plan operations.
“All U-2 pilots will retain the knowledge and skills necessary to operate the sensor across a variety of mission sets and operating locations to meet the priority intelligence gathering needs of geographic combatant commanders as determined by Tasks”, Gaiser said. “With a growing need for more diverse collection requirements, the U-2 program will evolve to maintain combat relevance with a variety of C5ISR-T capabilities and combat air force integration roles.”
The end of the OBC in Beale AFB enables mission units and partners to focus greater effort on emerging capabilities, tactics, techniques, and procedures, as well as employment concepts directly supporting pacing threat problem sets to advance the global mission of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing.