The US Air Force just completed an unusual purchase of two white Dodge Chargers. It then sent them off to a US base in the UK. Are they for driving around the top brass, or something to do with American dignitaries? No, they are needed to assist the U-2 spy planes that use the base to run high-altitude reconnaissance missions.
Why are Dodge Chargers needed by the Air Force?
The U-2 spy plane is uniquely designed to fly up to 70,000 feet. At those altitudes, the air is awfully thin, and pilots are required to wear spacesuits. But for all of the reasons that it is great cruising at those altitudes is also why it is notoriously hard to land.
So one requisite for landing is the U-2 needs a chase car to help guide the pilot. In the six decades it has flown missions for the US, there have been a variety of chase vehicles used. In recent years the Air Force has gotten U-2 assistance from a Chevy Camaro SS, Caprice PPV, and SS performance sedan. So it definitely has a strong performance car arsenal to aid the U-2 landing exploits.
How are the Dodge Chargers used?
A video shot at the Beale Military Air Force Base and RAF Fairford in the UK shows how the maneuver is done. You can see why it is so important to have the right vehicle and right driver.
Once the plane starts to descend, it travels at around 93 mph. As it gets closer to the runway, the chase car must arrive at that speed quickly. It stays about three car lengths behind the craft while it touches down. In those last few minutes of the flight, the chase car driver relays info to the pilot like the angle of descent, final altitude, and more.
The chase car drivers are also experienced U-2 pilots. They need to be to know what information the pilots need and to be precise with their maneuvering. But there are plenty of cars that are as good or better sitting in the UK. So why Dodge Chargers?
The drivers prefer left-hand sedans
According to Hot Cars, it is because the drivers prefer left-hand drive sedans, as opposed to the UK’s right-hand drive. Also, the equipment used to communicate with the pilots and certain modifications is sourced in the US. And being located at Mildenhall in Norfolk, England, there wouldn’t be the resources to keep these vehicles maintained.
So while some of this may seem excessive. However, in the context of how they are used, and where they are used, along with the modifications involved, it is the most feasible to handle the chase car needs like this. And, really, shouldn’t as much military equipment as possible be made in America?
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