No More Block 10 U-2s:

The Air Force has dispatched the last of the Block 10 U-2 high-flying reconnaissance airplanes to be made over into the Block 20 configuration. Technicians at Lockheed Martin’s Palmdale facility will transform the U-2, tearing it down to “its ribs and basic frame,” says 2nd Lt. Carlos Reyes, 9th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant officer in charge at Beale AFB, Calif., by replacing its round-dial cockpit with a new digital “glass” cockpit. SSgt. Zachary Wilson reports that the revamped U-2 will return to the fleet sometime next year. The Air Force has retirement in mind for the entire U-2 fleet, but it pursued the upgrade to keep the fleet viable until at least 2011. Some lawmakers and the head of US Strategic Command, Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, question whether U-2 retirement will create an intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance gap.