Amid all the news of Navy ships and aircraft steaming and flying through radioactive clouds near Japan, we thought we’d point out that the Air Force is deploying some of it’s most high tech assets to help with disaster relief there.
Yesterday, the air service announced that it has sent at least one U-2 Dragon Lady spyplane and a RQ-4 Global Hawk drone to provide high altitude imagery of the damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami that slammed Japan last week.
While the Global Hawk will be taking snapshots of up to 40,000 square kilometers a day using modern electo-optical cameras and Synthetic Aperture Radar the U-2 will be using its old school Optical Bar Camera which takes super high resolution photos on 10,500 feet of wet film. Yup, a similar camera used by the U-2 to spot Soviet missile sites during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. The camera, developed in 1971, weighs about 300 pounds and its roll of film weighs more than 120 pounds. Pretty serious.
It’s always cool to see the U-2 and its replacement, the Global Hawk, working together. Yes, the Global Hawk can carry some interesting payloads and stay on station for a long time but the U-2 can still carry more sensors and cameras aloft; a feature that keeps it in service despite rumors of its imminent retirement year after year.
Click through the jump to see a picture of the Dragon Lady’s camera.