Australian forces support allied armies all over the world, but one particular piece of Australian machinery plays a critical role in guiding one of the world’s oldest spy planes in safely — at over 230km/h.
The U-2 Dragon is a jet-powered Lockheed spy plane that cruises at 70,000 feet above the earth, around double the cruising altitude of a QANTAS domestic plane.
Its primary mission is to take photographs, with the help of a 4572mm lens. Flying at that altitude requires partial pressurisation of the cabin, along with a pressurised suit for the pilot, similar to what would be worn in space.
Due to the complexity of the frame required to fly at that altitude, the U-2 Dragon was designed with only one set of central landing gear. That means that landings are very difficult, with the plane highly susceptible to turbulence and cross winds during landing.
As a result, the pilot of the U-2 Dragon needs to be supported by another pilot that can guide the plane in to land. And, that can only be done from behind — at 140mph, or around 230km/h.
One of the few affordable cars capable of doing that day-in and day-out, with five seats, is the Holden Commodore — or Pontiac G8.
Powered by a 6.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 engine, the Commodore-based Pontiac G8 gets up to speed and carefully follows the U-2 Dragon while it lands, with the pilot in the G8 giving precise instructions over CB radio every second.
Despite being produced between 1955-1989, the U-2 Dragon is still used today in active conflict zones and remains supported by a fleet of GM V8s.