Everybody knows and loves the U-2: the mighty US spyplane. But they may not be as familiar with Lockheed’s matte black ultra-high altitude reconnaissance jet aircraft–nicknamed Dragon Lady–has a beautiful sister: NASA’s ER-2 that I think of as Snow White.

Snow White’s recent mission–based upon her high altitude radar system–is more peaceful than her dark sister’s. NASA’s Olympic Mountain Experiment campaign on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State runs from November 2015 through February 2016. The goal is to collect detailed atmospheric data to evaluate how well weather satellites measure rainfall and snowfall from space. Per NASA:

NASA’s ER-2 research aircraft has arrived at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and will join the DC-8 flying laboratory in improving Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) algorithms. The ER-2 will be used for NASA’s Radar Definition Experiment (RADEX) to obtain data that will advance the development of radars to monitor clouds from space. The information that is collected will be used jointly with NASA’s Olympic Mountain Experiment (OLYMPEX), which is verifying rain and snowfall observations made by the GPM satellite mission.


The aircraft rarely can be seen, so here is two more shots of her inside the hangar:

[NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center]