Lockheed Martin Skunk Works has secured a contract from the US Air Force (USAF) to advance capabilities of the U-2 Dragon Lady (U-2) aircraft for the future battlespace.

Under the $50m contract, Lockheed Martin will upgrade avionics suite that modernises the aircraft’s onboard systems for the USAF.

Once developed, the aircraft will have the capabilities to bridge next generation battlespace.

The scope of the contract includes the designing, integration and testing of the new advanced aircraft components. This will enable the U-2 to be the first fully OMS-compliant fleet.

Interim fielding is expected to commence by mid-2021, while the fleet modification is expected in early 2022.

The technology upgrades will also include a new mission computer designed to the USAF’s open mission systems (OMS) standard. It will allow integration of U-2 with systems across air, space, sea, land and cyber domain.

Once developed, the integration of systems can be experienced at disparate security levels.

The Dragon Lady will also feature modern cockpit displays to make everyday pilot tasks easier while improving presentation of the data collected by the aircraft for better informed decisions.

U-2 programme director Irene Helley said: “As a proven, agile and reliable aircraft, the U-2S is the most capable high-altitude ISR system in the fleet today.

“The Avionics Tech Refresh contract will continue our commitment of providing a premier aircraft to our warfighters, ensuring global security now and into the future.”

In March this year, Raytheon received a $320m undefined contract from the USAF to develop a version of the advanced synthetic aperture radar (ASARS-2B) for the U-2 Dragon Lady reconnaissance aircraft.