(Photo owned by the US Air Force)
The Lockheed Martin U-2 “Dragon Lady” is a 63 year old aircraft currently serving in the United States Air Force. Built beginning to fly in 1955, and entering operational status on 1957. The U-2 was designed by Lockheed Martin’s legendary Kelly Johnson was asked to design an aircraft that could reach 70,000ft over a target with 1,500 nautical mile operational radius. In 1954 the Central Intelligence Agency’s Director Allen Dulles (CIA) gave the thumbs up for Lockheed to began to build the U-2.
The U2 (Article 341 the prototype) first flew unintentionally on August 1st when during a high speed taxi the U-2 went airborne at 70 knots. After several flights later on September 8th the U-2 had achieved flight over 65,000ft. In 1956 the Air Force was so impressed with it’s flight they ordered 31 from the CIA. The top secret file for these purchase was “Project DRAGON LADY”. By April 1956 the Air Force thought the U-2 was ready to enter operational service. As often happens with new aircraft designs, there were several operational accidents. One occurred during these test flights, when a U-2 suffered a flameout over Tennessee. The Pilot in command calculated that he could reach New Mexico. Every air base in the continental U.S. had sealed orders on what to do if a U-2 landed. The commander of Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico was told to open his orders, the order told the commander to “prepare for the arrival of an unusual aircraft making a deadstick landing” and get it inside a hangar as soon as possible. The U-2 successfully landed after gliding for more than 300 miles and its strange, glider-like appearance and the space-suited pilot startled the base commander and other witnesses. While not every incident was so easy, in 1956 three pilots were killed in the U-2. The first fatal accident was on 15 May 1956, when the pilot stalled the aircraft during a post-takeoff maneuver that was intended to drop off the wingtip outrigger wheels. The second occurred on 31 August, when the pilot stalled the aircraft immediately after takeoff. On 17 September, a third aircraft disintegrated during ascent in Germany, also killing the pilot.
The British government in January 1956 approved the U-2’s deployment from RAF Lakenheath, operating under the squadron 1st Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, Provisional (WRSP-1). This was the CIA’s cover story. In 1956 WRSP-1 Moved to Germany after a British Spy was killed while onboard soviet vessels. On 20 June 1956 a U-2 flew over Poland and East Germany, with more flights on 2 July, though President Eisenhower was worried about the Soviets tracking the U-2 he still blessed the first Soviet Union over fly known as “Mission 2013” The U-2’s main target was the Soviet submarine construction program in Leningrad. As well as counting the numbers of the new Soviet Union’s bomber, M-4 “Bison” A second flight on 5 July continued searching for Bisons, took photographs of Moscow (the only ones taken by the program), and examined rocket factories at Kaliningrad and Khimki. Eisenhower knew from the earlier overflights that his hope of no Soviet detection was unrealistic, but ordered that the overflights stop if the aircraft could be tracked. The CIA determined that the Soviets couldn’t constantly track the U-2. Meaning that the Soviets did not know that Moscow and Leningrad had been overflown. The aircraft’s photographs showed tiny images of MiG-15s and MiG-17s attempting and failing to intercept the aircraft, proving that the Soviets could not shoot down an operational U-2. On 10 July, the Soviets protested what they described as overflights by a USAF “twin-engine medium bomber”, apparently believing that it was a Canberra. The U.S. replied on 19 July that no American “military planes” had overflown the Soviet Union, but the fact that the Soviets’ report showed that they could track the U-2s for extended periods caused Eisenhower to immediately halt overflights over eastern Europe. During this time the eight overflights over communist territory, however, had already shown that the bomber gap did not exist; the U-2s had not found any M-4.
In May 1956, Turkey approved the deployment of Detachment B at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey to watch the ongoing Suez Crisiz. The aircraft found evidence of many British troops on Malta and Cyprus as the United Kingdom prepared for its forthcoming intervention of the Suez Crisiz. The U.S. released some of the photographs to the British government. As the crisis grew in seriousness, the project converted from a source of strategic reconnaissance, which prioritized high quality over speed (the film was processed by its maker, then analyzed in Washington), to a tactical reconnaissance unit that provided immediate analysis. These pictures are still classified to this day.
In May 1957, Eisenhower again authorized overflights over certain important Soviet missile and atomic facilities. He continued to personally authorize each flight, closely examining maps and sometimes making changes to the flight plan. By 1957, one of the European units was based at Giebelstadt, and the far eastern unit was based at the Naval Air Facility Atsug, Japan.
On April 30th, Article 358 flew from Turkey to Pakistan with fuel and the Mission Commander Captain Francis Power, or known as Gary Powers. Captain Power departed Pakistan on May 1st to overfly the Soviet union and take pictures of their ICBMs. His flight would take him to Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, then head to Plesetsk Cosmodrome. After land Bodø, Norway. As soon as the U-2 was on the Soviets radar, all units of the Soviet Air Defence Forces in the Central Asia, Kazakhstan, The USSR, and European Region went on alert. Soon after the plane was detected, Lieutenant General of the Air Force Yevgeniy Savitskiy ordered the air-unit commanders “to attack the violator by all alert flights located in the area of foreign plane’s course, and to ram if necessary”. No aircraft was able to get the U-2 until three Soviets SA-2 were able to take down the U2. Captain Powers was captured, this incident became a big embarrassment to the United States.
October 1960, U-2s began operation over Cuba. August 1962 flight showed Soviet SA-2 SAM sites on the island; later overflights found more sites and MiG-21 interceptors. The increasing number of SAMs caused the United States to more cautiously plan Cuban overflights. This became the Cuban Missile Crisis. In October of 1962, Major Rudolf Anderson was killed when a Soviet SA-2 shot down his U-2 over Cuba. Due to this the Air Force took over the mission and the CIA never flew any pilots over Cuba.
In 2010 the U-2 served in Iraq, and Afghanistan flying over 200 operations in the Middle East. The 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron continues to operate the U-2. In May 2014, a U-2 was accused of inadvertently causing an air traffic disruption in the Western US due to an apparent ERAM software glitch. As of January 2018, the U.S. Air Force budget for 2018 had indefinitely postponed the retirement of the U-2. The U-2 served out of Cyprus to photography Syria during ISIS. In early August 2018 NASA flew two missions using infrared sensors to map the Mendocino Complex Fire in California. he flights used the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) satellite instruments. The U-2 made news in the US in 2016 when a TU-2S crashed in Beale Air Force Base, California.
As we get more and more military style groups, a new military aircraft would be perfect, the U-2 is a high altitude recon aircraft which people would enjoy. The U-2 is very well known and a lot of information about it is out there. This beautiful aircraft would bring us to a new height which would be great!
Crew: One (Two for trainer)
Length: 63 ft
Wingspan: 105 ft
Height: 16 ft
Empty Weight: 16,000 lbs
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 40,000 lbs
Fuel Cap: 2,950 US gals
The Engine: General Electric F118-101 turbofan with 17,000 lbf.
Cruise speed: Mach 0.715 (410 knt) at 72,000 ft
Stall speed: 65 knots
Range: 6,090 nmi
Service Ceiling: 80,000 ft
Vertical Speed: initial 9,000 ft/min 12.5 min to 60,000ft
Fuel consumption: 910 lb/h in cruise
Flight Endurance: 12 hours
Initial production, single-seat; Pratt& Whitney J57-P-37A engine; 48 built
Enhanced two-seat trainer.
Aerial refueling capable, J75-powered
Re-designed airframes enlarged nearly 30 percent with underwing pods and increased fuel capacity; 14 built
A third production batch of U-2R aircraft built for high-altitude tactical reconnaissance missions with[side-looking radar, new avionics, and improved ECM,equipment; 33 built. Re-designated U-2S after the fall of the Soviet Union
New redesignated TR-1B two-seat trainer with improved engine; five converted
Redesignation of the TR-1A and U-2R aircraft with updated General Electric F118 engine, improved sensors, and addition of a GPS receiver; 31 converted
People who operated/operatingthe U-2
United States Air Force:
9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Beale Air Force Base, California.
- 1st Reconnaissance Squadron
- 5th Reconnaissance Squadron currently deployed to Osan Air Base, South Korea
- 99th Reconnaissance Squadron currently deployed to, RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus
100th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona.
4008th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas.
380th Air Expeditionary Wing, Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.
US Government (Non Military):
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Central Intelligence Agency:
Detachment A, Germany
Detachment B, Turkey
Detachment C, Japan
Detachment G, California
Royal Air Force:
CIA Detachment B, Turkey
Republic of China Air Force:
35th Black Cat Squadron