RAMP will upgrade the 1960s-vintage cockpit with newly installed equipment, including three 6-by-8-inch multifunction displays, an up-front control and display unit, and an independent secondary flight display system. The new equipment replaces older systems that are no longer supportable and provides improved pilot situational awareness. The entire fleet of 31 U-2S models and four two-cockpit trainers will be modified before the project is completed in 2007.
"Flight testing is proceeding as scheduled with incremental successes," said Bryan Swords, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company aero project manager. "We've had six flights to date, with another 11 scheduled over the next four months."
Low- and high-altitude flights have been successfully completed, as well as a nighttime taxi to evaluate display lighting conditions, Swords said.
"RAMP will significantly reduce the pilot's workload," said Eric Hansen, an Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company aero test pilot who made the first test flight. "From a human factors standpoint, this program represents a victory for U-2 pilots."
RAMP uses commercial off-the-shelf equipment, some of which must be modified to meet the special needs of the high-altitude U-2 aircraft. A new main avionics processor will receive signals that currently drive the instruments and then digitize, process and output information to various smart multifunction displays.
Head-forward controls increase situational awareness and replace existing radio controls, which distracted the pilot, who had to look downward and backward when changing frequencies during flight, a most difficult task while wearing a pressurized suit.
The RAMP contract was awarded in October 1998. Flight tests on the engineering and manufacturing development vehicle will be completed by July, and the first production aircraft will begin its six-month modification cycle in August. Six aircraft will be modified per year, with the production rate governed by the U-2 periodic depot maintenance cycle. (