The U.S. Air Force revealed new 360-degree footage of a U-2 airplane pilot's perspective from takeoff to the edge of Earth's atmosphere on Monday. The reconnaissance aircraft was an iconic aircraft during the Cold War for high altitude surveillance of Russia. Now, the U-2 remains an essential part of national security.
Lt. Gen. Robert Otto joined CBSN to talk about the new video and how the U-2 is vital to the Air Force. Lt. Gen. Otto was once a U-2 pilot and is currently the Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance.
"The airplane has incredible sensors so what we're able to pick up, both look and listen, is really something that no other platform is quite as good at doing," Lt. Gen. Otto said. "It is just as modern as anything that we have fielded today, and the ability to be able to stand off from a country and still gain intelligence inside of that country is something that is pretty special and something that our country can do with the technology that we have."
Lt. Gen. Otto described the wide-ranging capabilities of the plane. For example, he said that the U-2 could be flying over New York City and simultaneously listening to or taking pictures of Washington, D.C.
Earlier this year, the U.S. European Command commander called for increased use of U-2 airplanes to counter threats from Russia. Aside from Russia, the U-2 has been essential for surveillance of countries in the Middle East and combating ISIS from an intelligence perspective.
"One of the things we're trying to do is to target ISIL's long term capabilities," Lt. Gen. Otto said, using another acronym for ISIS. "That's going after their oil, going after their cash, going after their key infrastructure and their command and control. To gather the intelligence to make that happen, a platform like the U-2 is very helpful."