Post Cold War Surveillance Planes And The Future Of Aerial Reconnaissance

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Last Updated: Jan 18, 2016

Aerial reconnaissance plays a major role in warfare. Ever since the very first soldier climbed the highest tree to get a better view of the enemy’s troops, getting above ground to spy behind enemy lines is of vital importance in winning a war.

The very first aerial spy, U-2, was designed by Clarence “Kelly” Johnson in the Cold War. Back then, the spy could fly higher than the missiles so it was indestructible until ten years later when newer missiles can finally level with it in the sky. The same designer created a faster aerial spy and called it A-12, which soon morphed into SR-71, an uninterceptable flying object that travels 3x faster than sound.

There are other aircraft that carry the same missions and they are those that are expected to carry out the surveillance missions of the future.

  1. The Boeing Wedgetail. This 737 is a heavily modified commercial plane with fixed radar that monitors activities via electronic programming, which gives it more focus and more power to concentrate even on the busiest airspace. It is used by the Royal Australian Air Force or RAAF.


  1. The Airseeker/Rivet Joint. This is a Boeing 707 with a sole mission to do nothing else but gather Sigint (signals intelligence) to fight off the battle with digitised technologies that forever flood the skies.


  1. The Fighter Jets. Reconnaissance aircrafts used to be the fighter jets that would drop bombs on target areas and report back whether they hit the target or didn’t. They may not be as big as the first two on the list but they gather relevant imagery and data 70 miles away through the intricate sensors built inside the aircrafts. These spy planes can even detect IED.


  1. UAVs. These aircrafts do not need a person to board the plane like the three mentioned above. The most popular UAV is The Reaper operated in the ground in only two offices in the world and they are located in Nevada and Lincolnshire. It can provide video feeds that can be viewed by the ground operators with just slight delays.


  1. Lockheed Martin SR-72. This is the SR-71’s successor. It is still inside the minds of the people who want to make the next line of super aerial reconnaissance vehicles and not yet close to becoming a reality as it is still a project proposal. But when it will finally take shape, it is expected to travel at 6,400km per hour, twice the speed of its predecessor, unmanned, and super powerful.


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