Lockheed Martin Skunk Works has said that that an Air Force U-2S reconnaissance aircraft and its NASA ER-2 variant set three new world records over the last two days. [ed: No dates mentioned.]

The first two world records, flown from Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale CA involved flying a record payload weight of 3,300 pounds to an altitude of 15,000 meters (49,000'). Air Force officials stated the record setting U-2 aircraft was configured with a normal mission payload, and was not specially configured for this record event. Of interest, once the record was established at 15,000 meters, the aircraft continued to climb to its nominal cruise altitudes above 65,000'.

The previous 15,000-meter record was held by a Russian MiG-29 fighter, set in 1995. The new records were for a medium-weight class of 26,455 to 35,274 pounds take-off weight and for the unlimited-weight class (no aircraft of any weight has ever claimed this amount of a payload to 49,000').

The third record, set by NASA's earth resources program ER-2 flown from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base CA, broke an absolute altitude record for its weight class. The new NASA record of 68,700' surpassed the current record of 62,500' flown by a Russian P-42 in 1988.

The first U-2S was delivered to the USAF in October 1994. All U-2Rs have now been converted to the U-2S configuration. In addition to a new, high-efficiency General Electric F118 engine, all U-2S aircraft have been equipped with an improved electrical system, digital autopilot, and auxiliary spoiler activation system.

Officials were reluctant to give exact details of either aircraft's performance. The ceiling was described as "above 70,000'," and the range as "greater than 7,000 miles."

(Defense Systems newsletter -- no specified date, but item was received by Aerofiles on 11/25/98)