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Why are U-2 jet pilots wearing Garmin satellite navigation smartwatches?


Why are U-2 jet pilots wearing Garmin satellite navigation smartwatches?

U-2, not U as well — They’re useful flight- and pilot-monitoring tools, says the Air Force. Eric Tegler – Mar 13, 2020 5:15 pm UTC The current model U-2S aircraft features an all-glass digital cockpit, improved sensors, and propulsion systems. But its pilots still wear backup GPS/GLONASS-enabled watches, just in case. USAF The Garmin D2…

Why are U-2 jet pilots wearing Garmin satellite navigation smartwatches?

U-2, no longer U as neatly —

They’re advisable flight- and pilot-monitoring instruments, says the Air Power.

Eric Tegler

  • The new model U-2S aircraft components an all-glass digital cockpit, improved sensors, and propulsion programs. However its pilots quiet wear backup GPS/GLONASS-enabled watches, precise in case.


  • The Garmin D2 Charlie pilot’s smartwatch.


  • A U-2 Dragon Girl flies above the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, California, Mar. 23, 2016.

    U.S. Air Power photo/Team Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo

  • The U-2 is the excellent aircraft within the Department of Protection inventory that requires the utilization of a chubby tension suit.

    U.S. Air Power photo by Airman 1st Class Drew Buchanan

  • U-2 pilot Capt. Travis checks his heads-up reveal within the cockpit of a U-2 Dragon Girl Jan. 8, 2013, at Beale Air Power Sinful, Calif.

    U.S. Air Power photo by Airman 1st Class Drew Buchanan

  • The U-2 got the Dragon Girl nickname early on, on chronicle of, as a elaborate airplane to hover, whenever you happen to didn’t treat it with utmost admire it would extinguish you.

    U.S. Air Power photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie

Earlier this month, US Air Power Customary James M. “Mike” Holmes acknowledged what many within the defense community and defense media already knew. Pilots of the worn and iconic Lockheed U-2 Dragon Girl excessive altitude reconnaissance jet wear GPS-enabled Garmin smartwatches for navigation backup. Customary Holmes, who leads the Air Power’s Air Wrestle Expose (ACC), was responding to a predict about military communications machine vulnerabilities at a convention in Washington, DC. And he opined that the Air Power can maintain to be ready to make exhaust of the mammoth sequence of financial communications paths obtainable.

“My U-2 guys hover with a gaze now that ties into GPS however additionally BeiDou and the Russian machine and European machine… so if any individual jams GPS they quiet get the others,” Holmes acknowledged.

Certainly, U-2 pilots from the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale Air Power Sinful in Northern California had been flying with Garmin’s D2 Charlie smartwatches since slack 2017, when the squadron got 100 of the watches, in keeping with Garmin spokesperson Jessica Koss.

Though the tech media picked up Gen. Holmes’ feedback, he was unsuitable in saying that the watches can rating European Galileo and Chinese language BeiDou satellite positioning alerts. Air Wrestle Expose tells Ars that the watches can’t rating BeiDou alerts, and Garmin confirms that they can no longer bask in up Galileo alerts, both.  The D2 Charlie can most productive rating GPS and Russian GLONASS space alerts.

While the watches can no longer get recordsdata from these totally different programs, ACC does acknowledge that they are “able to receiving a total lot of navigation alerts alongside side GPS and GLONASS.” We’re no longer precisely particular what the totally different nav alerts might well additionally very neatly be, however the D2 Charlie is no longer any longer precise a backup navigation procedure for U-2 pilots. It has totally different makes exhaust of.

The Dragon Girl’s timepiece

Garmin launched the rechargeable D2 Charlie in July of 2017. Or no longer it’s a mammoth, chubby aviator smartwatch (51×17.5mm diameter case, 95g weight) that certainly feels love a tool to your wrist.

In that sense, it harks again to the origins of the wristwatch. After all, among the many first wristwatch users had been World Battle I pilots who fabricated straps for pocket watches that they then placed on their wrists over their cumbersome flying suits. Thanks to the U-2’s service ceiling of over 80,000 toes, its pilots maintain to wear tension suits within the event of a cockpit pressurization failure. They, too, presumably wear the D2 Charlie over their apparel or mount it within the cockpit.

The gaze is conspicuous, specifically whenever you happen to might well additionally maintain its chubby-coloration dynamic transferring design, GPS navigation, or NEXRAD climate displayed. GPS-specific components include note, distance to the subsequent waypoint, estimated time en-route, and divulge-to direction to any waypoint to your flight conception. The D2 additionally has the connectivity you demand from a smartwatch—textual suppose material/email notifications and accelerometer-enabled biometric capabilities alongside side heart payment, fitness monitoring, exercise profiles, and more. (It has additionally since been out of date by the D2 Delta, which provides a pulse oximeter for oxygen level consciousness, among totally different improvements.)

Brian Plank, Garmin’s Crew X instrument lead, says that the D2’s default navigation mode constantly compares American and Russian satellite space recordsdata. “The gaze is continually correlating the 2 alerts and attempting to supply you the excellent fix. If GPS goes away, the GLONASS fix will likely be outmoded,” Plank quick us.

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This is why U-2 pilots might well additionally receive it advisable in GPS-denied (jammed) environments or when the Dragon Girl’s have faith avionics fail or are centered by electronic battle programs. Particularly, the gaze does no longer broadcast any signal itself, so it be pretty stable as prolonged because it be no longer paired with a dialog procedure love a cell phone or avionics. And Plank says Garmin designed the D2’s working machine entirely in-dwelling; the identical goes for the cell apps and cyber safety common sense it makes exhaust of.

While you are drawn to industrial relief watch over, you may well opt into chronicle the proven fact that D2s are inbuilt Garmin’s Taiwan factories and that its GPS/GLONASS receiver is sourced from Taiwan-primarily based entirely MediaTek, which gives chip-sets for a mammoth swath of the smartphone/pill market. A cyber exploit that allowed actors to get accurate of entry to procedure apps and non-public recordsdata by MediaTek chips only within the near past made news, however Garmin says the affected chips are no longer allotment of the D2 Charlie’s internals.

Navigating totally different functions

The D2’s broader smartwatch capabilities had been mercurial known by the 99th RS as advisable accessories in facilitating unclassified dialog, monitoring flight profiles, and checking pilot physiological performance.

In slack 2017, Lieutenant Colonel Matt Nussbaum, then commander of the 99th, quick Protection Records that his squadron had, by itself initiative, got pills with navigation and datalink instrument as neatly as D2 Charlies. He pointed out that while new U-2s maintain highly evolved sensors and datalinks, their stable structure makes non-classified dialog cumbersome.

“Or no longer it’s entirely neatly geared up for a classified fight atmosphere, it be no longer neatly geared as a lot as ship a show to our recovery team’s cell cell phone,” he acknowledged. “So I will ship heaps and hundreds recordsdata off our sensors, however I will no longer ring up any individual’s cell phone on the airplane, and with this expertise I will carry out that.”

Or no longer it’s likely that Lt. Col. Nussbaum was speaking about pairing the watches and pills with pilots’ cellphones or totally different units. The presence of totally different units within the U-2 cockpit might well additionally unbiased point to ACC’s opponents that the D2s can rating “a total lot of navigation alerts” alongside side GPS/GLONASS. Ars requested each ACC and the 9th Reconnaissance Fly at Beale AFB specifically about these and totally different capabilities, however they declined to comment.

Lt. Col. Nussbaum additionally quick Protection Records that the squadron supposed to glean flight profile and pilot physiological recordsdata from the watches. (How this works if the watches are typical on prime of a tension suit is no longer any longer entirely sure.) The guidelines might well be translated to a military layout to be downloaded for instruction and administrative purposes.

Garmin’s instrument lead says that flight exercise and neatly being recordsdata might well additionally unbiased be downloaded accurate some distance flung from the D2, even supposing sharing it with the corporate’s Garmin-Connect cell app yields deeper, fashion-related recordsdata and insights. The 9th Reconnaissance Fly would no longer touch upon how the solutions is outmoded or if the note continues, however it certainly’s unbelievable, if no longer unbelievable, that the squadron does exhaust the app.

If the advantages of the D2 as a navigational backup, communications aid, and ancillary recordsdata collector make sense to the U-2 community, it be life like to do away with that they’d attract totally different Air Power aircraft communities. To the predict of whether or no longer totally different USAF squadrons/objects maintain got smartwatches for an identical purposes, Air Wrestle Expose and Air Power Special Operations Expose had no reply.

However provided that the Navy formally got Garmin Fenix 3 smartwatches for its F/A-18 Hornet pilots in 2017 and that, in 2018, a Navy EA-18G Growler crew outmoded a Garmin smartwatch to navigate again to unsuitable when its camouflage iced-over and its avionics stopped working, it be very likely that particular person Air Power aircrews are wearing smartwatches of their have faith.

Itemizing image by U.S. Air Power photo/Team Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo

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