U-2s Receive Modifications to Counter the Bends

The Air Force has implemented modifications to its U-2 high-altitude surveillance aircraft to help eliminate the risk of decompression sickness among the pilots, according to officials at Beale AFB, Calif., home of the U-2 fleet. The Cockpit Altitude Reduction Effort, developed by Lockheed Martin, “reinforces the airframe structure, replaces valves, changes the bleed air system logic, and alters cockpit controls,” states Beale’s Aug. 15 release. “To eliminate the risk of DCS for U-2 pilots is phenomenal,” said Lt. Col. Brian Musselman, commander of the 9th Physiological Support Squadron. Maintainers began installing the CARE gear on 27 U-2s last September and finished the work in June, said the officials. “Since the CARE modifications have occurred, there have been no reported DCS incidents,” said Lt. Col. Colby Kuhns, 1st Reconnaissance Squadron commander. Between 2002 and 2009, U-2 pilots reported a growing number and increased severity of DCS incidents, states the release. This motivated U-2 officials to pursue CARE. (Beale report by A1C Bobby Cummings)