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The Lockheed U-2, nicknamed " Dragon Lady", is a , operated by the (USAF) and previously flown by the (CIA). It provides day and night, very high-altitude (70 000 feet/21 000 m), all-weather .Drew, Christopher. "U-2 Spy Plane Evades the Day of Retirement." , 21 March 2010. Retrieved 23 March 2010. The U-2 has also been used for electronic sensor research, calibration, and communications purposes.

Early versions of the U-2 were involved in several events through the , being flown over the , China, , and . In 1960 in a CIA U-2A over the Soviet Union by a surface-to-air missile. Another U-2, piloted by Major , Jr., was lost in a similar fashion in the of 1962.

The U-2 is one of a handful of aircraft types to have served the USAF for over 50 years. The newest models (TR-1, U-2R, U-2S) entered service in the 1980s. The current model, the U-2S, received its most recent technical upgrade in 2012. They have taken part in post-Cold War conflicts in and , and supported several multinational operations.


After , the U.S. military desired better strategic to help determine Soviet capabilities and intentions. Into the 1950s, the best intelligence the American government had on the interior of the Soviet Union were German photographs taken during the war of territory west of the , so to take of the Soviet Union began. After 1950, Soviet air defenses aggressively attacked all aircraft near its borders—sometimes even those over Japanese airspace—and the existing reconnaissance aircraft, primarily bombers converted for reconnaissance duty such as the , were vulnerable to anti-aircraft artillery, missiles, and fighters. Richard Leghorn of the United States Air Force suggested that an aircraft that could fly at should be safe from the , the Soviet Union's best interceptor, which could barely reach . He and others believed that Soviet radar, which used American equipment provided during the war, could not track aircraft above 65,000 feet.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 4–5, 22.

The highest-flying aircraft available to America and its allies at the time was the , which could reach . The British had already produced the PR3 photo-reconnaissance variant, but the USAF asked for English Electric's help to further modify the —the American licensed version of the Canberra—with long, narrow wings, new engines, and a lighter-than-normal airframe to reach during flight. mandated design changes that made the aircraft more durable for combat, but the resulting aircraft of 1955 could only reach 64,000 feet. The Soviet Union, unlike the United States and Britain, had also improved radar technology after the war, and could track aircraft above 65,000 feet.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 5–7.

Lockheed proposal
It was thought that an aircraft that could fly at would be beyond the reach of Soviet fighters, missiles, and radar.. Another US Air Force officer, John Seaberg, wrote a in 1953 for an aircraft that could reach over a target with of operational radius. The USAF decided to only solicit designs from smaller aircraft companies that could give the project more attention.Pedlow & Welzenbach 1992, pp. 8–9. Under the code name "Bald Eagle", it gave contractsPocock 2005, p. 10. to , , and to develop proposals for the new reconnaissance aircraft. Officials at heard about the project and decided to submit an unsolicited proposal. To save weight and increase altitude, Lockheed executive John H Carter suggested that the design eliminate landing gear and avoid attempting to meet combat for the airframe. The company asked to come up with such a design. Johnson was Lockheed's best aeronautical engineer,Pedlow & Welzenbach 1992, pp. 8–10. responsible for the and the . He was also known for completing projects ahead of schedule, working in a separate division of the company, informally called the .Miller, Jay. Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works: The Official History, updated ed. Leicestershire, UK: Aerofax, 1995. ISBN 1-85780-037-0

Johnson's design, named CL-282, was based on the with long, slender wings and a shortened fuselage. The design was powered by the engine and took off from a special cart and landed on its belly. It could reach an altitude of 73 ,000  feet and had a 1,600-mile radius.Jenkins 1998, p. 6. The reconnaissance aircraft was essentially a jet-powered . In June 1954, the USAF rejected the design in favor of the and the modified B-57. Reasons included the lack of landing gear, usage of the J73 engine instead of the more proven (like the competing designs), and not using multiple engines, which, the USAF believed, was more reliable. General of (SAC) walked out during a CL-282 presentation, saying that he was not interested in an airplane without wheels or guns.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 11–16.

Civilian officials such as , an aide to , were more positive about the CL-282 because of its higher potential altitude and smaller radar cross section, and recommended the design to the 's . At this time, the CIA depended on the military for overflights, and favored over intelligence gathering methods. However, the Intelligence Systems Panel, a civilian group advising the USAF and CIA on aerial reconnaissance, by 1954, recognized that the RB-57D would not meet the 70,000-feet requirement that panel member Allen Donovan of believed was necessary for safety. The CIA told the panel about the CL-282, and the aspects of its design that the USAF saw as flaws—the single engine and light load factor—appealed to Donovan, a sailplane enthusiast who believed that a sailplane was the type of high-altitude aircraft the panel was seeking.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 24–26.

, the developer of instant photography, and another member of the panel proposed to Dulles through Dulles' aide, , that his agency should fund and operate this aircraft. Land believed that the military operating the CL-282 during peacetime could provoke a war. Although Dulles remained reluctant to have the CIA conduct its own overflights, Land and of told President Eisenhower about the aircraft; Eisenhower agreed that the CIA should be the operator. Dulles finally agreed, but some U.S. Air Force officials opposed the project because they feared it would endanger the RB-57D and X-16. The USAF's Seaberg helped persuade his own agency to support the CL-282, albeit with the higher-performance J57 engine, and final approval for a joint USAF-CIA project—the first time the CIA dealt with sophisticated technology—came in November 1954. Lockheed had meanwhile become busy with other projects and had to be persuaded to accept the CL-282 contract after approval.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 29–37.

Bissell became head of the project, which used covert funding; under the of 1949, the DCI is the only federal government employee who can spend "un-vouchered" government money. Lockheed received a $22.5 million contract in March 1955 for the first 20 aircraft, with the first $1.26 million mailed to Johnson's home in February 1955 to keep work going during negotiations. The company agreed to deliver the first aircraft by July of that year and the last by November 1956. It did so, and for $3.5 million under budget, because the aircraft was based on the F-104; only the wings and tail were different.Pedlow & Welzenbach 1992, pp. 39–45. The Flight Test Engineer in charge was . ξ1

Procurement of the aircraft's components occurred secretly. When Johnson ordered altimeters calibrated to from a company whose instruments only went to , the CIA set up a cover story involving experimental rocket aircraft. developed a new low-volatility, low vapor pressure jet fuel that would not evaporate at high altitudes; the fuel became known as , and manufacturing several hundred thousand gallons for the aircraft in 1955 caused a nationwide shortage of Shell's insect repellent. The aircraft was renamed the U-2 in July 1955, the same month the first aircraft, Article 341, was delivered to Groom Lake. The "U" referred to the deliberately vague "utility" instead of "R" for "reconnaissance", and the U-1 and U-3 aircraft already existed.Pedlow & Welzenbach 1992, pp. 59–62, 66. The CIA assigned the cryptonym "Aquatone" to the project, with the USAF using the name "Oilstone" for their support to the CIA.Pocock 2005, p. 24.

developed the optics for a large-format camera to be used in the U-2 while working for . These new cameras had a resolution of from an altitude of . The aircraft was so crowded that when Baker asked Johnson for six more inches of space for a lens of 240-inch focal length, Johnson replied "I'd sell my grandmother for six more inches!"; Baker instead used a 180-inch f/13.85 lens in a 13" by 13" format for his final design.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 54–55.

When the first overflights of the Soviet Union were tracked by radar, the CIA initiated to reduce the U-2's . This effort ultimately proved unsuccessful, and work began on a follow-on aircraft, which resulted in the Oxcart.Suhler 2009, p. 45.

The unique design that gives the U-2 its remarkable performance also makes it a difficult aircraft to fly. It was designed and manufactured for minimum airframe weight, which results in an aircraft with little margin for error. Most aircraft were single-seat versions, with only five two-seat trainer versions known to exist.Karl, Jonathan. "So High, So Fast." ABC News, 17 August 2007. Retrieved 8 March 2009. Early U-2 variants were powered by turbojet engines.Donald, David, ed. "Lockheed U-2". The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1997. ISBN 0-7607-0592-5. The U-2C and TR-1A variants used the more powerful turbojet. The U-2S and TU-2S variants incorporated the even more powerful turbofan engine.Donald, David, ed. "U-2, The Second Generation". Black Jets. London: AIRtime, 2003. ISBN 1-880588-67-6.

High aspect ratio wings give the U-2 some -like characteristics, with an engine out of about 23:1, "U2 Utility Flight Handbook." Department of Defence, 1959, p. 135. comparable to gliders of the time. To maintain their operational ceiling of , the early U-2A and U-2C models had to fly very near their (VNE). The margin between that maximum speed and the at that altitude was only below its maximum speed. This narrow window was referred to by the pilots as the "", - 1182.html "High-flying U-2 takes its final bow." Flight International, 29 April 1989, p. 24. because breaching either limit would likely cause the wings or tail to separate.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 75–76. For 90% of the time on a typical mission the U-2 was flying less than five knots above stall speed. A stall would cause a decrease in altitude, possibly leading to detection and overstress of the airframe.

The U-2's flight controls are designed around the normal flight envelope and altitude at which the aircraft was intended to fly. The controls provide feather light control response at operational altitude. However, at lower altitudes, the higher air density and lack of a power assisted control system makes the aircraft very difficult to fly. Control inputs must be extreme to achieve the desired response in flight attitude, and a great deal of physical strength is needed to operate the controls in this manner. The U-2 is very sensitive to crosswinds, which, together with its tendency to float over the runway, makes the aircraft notoriously difficult to land. As it approaches the runway, the cushion of air provided by the high-lift wings in is so pronounced that the U-2 will not land unless the wing is fully stalled. A landing U-2 is accompanied on the ground by a chase car and an assisting U-2 pilot calling off the angles and decreasing aircraft height as the aircraft descends. Chase cars have included , , , GTs, and .Hennigan, W.J. "New Camaros tear down runway to help U-2 spy planes." , 22 November 2012, Retrieved: 8 January 2013.Smith, Sam. " Chasing the U-2 Spy Plane—In a Pontiac GTO" , 28 August 2012. Retrieved: 12 September 2014.

Instead of the typical tricycle landing gear, the U-2 uses a bicycle configuration with a forward set of main wheels located just behind the cockpit, and a rear set of main wheels located behind the engine. The rear wheels are coupled to the rudder to provide steering during taxiing. To maintain balance while taxiing, two auxiliary wheels, called "pogos" are added for takeoff. These fit into sockets underneath each wing at about mid-span, and fall off during takeoff. To protect the wings during landing, each wingtip has a titanium skid. After the U-2 comes to a halt, the ground crew re-installs the pogos one wing at a time, then the aircraft taxis to parking.Bennett, Christopher W. "The U-2 World, January 1991 – July 1994, May – October 1996.", 16 January 1997. Retrieved: 8 March 2009.

Because of the high operating altitude and the cockpit's partial pressurization, equivalent to 28,000 feet, the pilot wears a partially pressurized , which delivers the pilot's oxygen supply and provides emergency protection in case cabin pressure is lost. While pilots can drink water and eat food in squeezable containers through a self-sealing hole in the face mask, they typically lose up to six pounds of weight on an eight-hour mission. Most pilots chose to not take with them the offered before missions. If put in the mouth and bitten, the "L-pill"—containing liquid —would cause death in 10–15 seconds. After a pilot almost accidentally ingested an L-pill instead of candy during a December 1956 flight the suicide pills were put into boxes to avoid confusion. When in 1960 the CIA realized that a pill breaking inside the cockpit would kill the pilot, it destroyed the L-pills and its developed a needle poisoned with a powerful shellfish toxin and hidden in a . Only one was made because, as the agency decided, if any pilot needed to use it the program would probably be canceled.Pedlow & Welzenbach 1992, pp. 62–66, 124–25.

To prevent and decrease the chance of , pilots breathe 100% oxygen an hour prior to take off to remove nitrogen from the body. A portable oxygen supply is used prior to entering the aircraft.Polmar 2001, p. 64. Since 2001, more than a dozen pilots have reportedly suffered the effects of decompression sickness, including permanent brain damage in nine cases; initial symptoms include disorientation and becoming unable to read. Factors increasing the risk of illness since 2001 include longer mission durations and more cockpit activity. Conventional reconnaissance missions would limit pilot duties to maintaining flight path for camera photography. Operations over Afghanistan included more real time activities, such as communication with ground troops, increasing their bodies' oxygen requirements and the risk of nitrogen bubble formation. U-2 pilots now exercise during oxygen pre-breathing.Betancourt, Mark. "Killer at 70,000 feet: The Occupational Hazards of Flying the U-2." Air & Space magazine, May 2012, pp. 42–47. In 2012, modifications were initiated under the Cockpit Altitude Reduction Effort (CARE), increasing the cabin pressure from 3.88 psi to 7.65 psi, a 15,000 foot altitude equivalent. The urine collection device also was rebuilt to eliminate leakage.Nickel, Senior Airman Shawn. "CARE Modifications Place Pilots at Better Elevation." Beale Air Force Base, 13 February 2012. Retrieved: 21 May 2013.

The aircraft carries a variety of sensors in the nose, Q-bay (behind the cockpit, also known as the camera bay), and wing pods. The U-2 is capable of simultaneously collecting , imagery intelligence and air samples. Imagery intelligence sensors include either wet film photography, electro-optic, or radar imagery – the latter from the system. It can use both line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight data links. One of the most unusual instruments in the newest version of the U-2 is the off-the-shelf video camera that functions as a digital replacement for the purely optical viewsight (an upside down periscope-like viewing device) that was used in older variants to get a precise view of the terrain directly below the aircraft, especially during landing.

Operational history

United States

Pilot selection and training
Though the U.S. Air Force and Navy would eventually fly the U-2, the CIA had majority control over the project, code named Project Dragon Lady.Pocock 2005, p. 404. Despite SAC chief LeMay's early dismissal of the CL-282, the USAF in 1955 sought to take over the project and put it under SAC until Eisenhower repeated his opposition to military personnel flying the aircraft. Nonetheless, the U.S. Air Force substantially participated in the project; Bissell described it as a "49 percent" partner. The USAF agreed to select and train pilots and plot missions, while the CIA would handle cameras and project security, process film, and arrange foreign bases.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 60–61.

Beyond not using American military personnel to fly the U-2, Eisenhower preferred to use non-US citizens. the nationalities of the foreign pilots recruited remains classified. The language barrier and a lack of appropriate flying experience proved problematic; by late 1955, foreign pilots were out of the program.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 73–74. Turning to Americans, pilots had to resign their military commissions before joining the agency as civilians, a process referred to as "sheep dipping", and were always called "drivers", not pilots. The program only recruited from SAC fighter pilots with reserve USAF commissions, as regular commissions complicated the resignation process. The program offered high salaries and the USAF promised that pilots could return to their units at the same ranks as other officers. The CIA's standards for selection were higher than the USAF's once the latter began its own U-2 flights; although more candidates were rejected, the CIA's program had a much lower accident rate. Test pilot trained other Lockheed pilots to fly the U-2, who by September 1955 trained six USAF pilots, who in turn trained "sheep-dipped" pilots. As no two-seat trainer model was available for the program's first 15 years, training was done before the trainee's first solo flight and via radio. Pilots had to adjust to the U-2's unusual combination of jet engines and enormous, high-lift glider wings; because of the "coffin corner" they learned of the need to pay complete attention to flying when not using the autopilot.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 59, 74–76.

Test flights
As with CIA involvement, besides the normal serial number for each aircraft produced, each U-2 also has an "article number" assigned, and each U-2 would be referred to with its article number on classified internal documents/memos. The prototype U-2, Article 341, never received a USAF serial.Pocock 2005, p. 406. The first flight occurred at Groom Lake on 1 August 1955, during what was intended to be only a high-speed taxi test run of Article 341. The sailplane-like wings were so efficient that the aircraft jumped into the air at ,Huntington, Tom. "U-2." Invention & Technology Magazine, Volume 22, Number 3. amazing LeVier who, as he later said, "had no intentions whatsoever of flying". The lake bed had no markings making it difficult for LeVier to judge the distance to the ground, and the brakes proved too weak; he bounced the U-2 once before it stopped rolling. Although the aircraft suffered only minor damage, LeVier again found landing the U-2 difficult during the actual first test flight three days later. On his sixth try, he found that landing the aircraft by touching down on the rear wheel first was superior to the front. (Future pilots new to the U-2 would also have difficulty during landing because at low speeds ground effect would keep the aircraft above the ground for long distances.) On 8 August, the first flight occurred in front of Bissell and other outside observers. The U-2 reached 32,000 feet, proving that Johnson had met his promised specifications and deadline. By 16 August, the prototype flew at 52,000 feet, an altitude never before reached in sustained flight; by 8 September, it reached 65,000 feet.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 68–71.

By January 1956, the U-2 so impressed SAC that it wished to purchase its own aircraft. The U.S. Air Force would purchase a total of 31 U-2s through the CIA; the transaction's code name, Project Dragon Lady, was the origin of the aircraft's nickname. Meanwhile, U-2s conducted eight overflights of the U.S. in April 1956 that convinced the project that the aircraft was ready for deployment. As often happens with new aircraft designs, there were several operational accidents. One occurred during these test flights, when a U-2 suffered a over Tennessee; the pilot calculated that he could reach New Mexico. Every air base in the continental United States had sealed orders on what to do if a U-2 landed. The commander of near was told to open his orders, prepare for the landing of an unusual aircraft making a , and get it inside a hangar as soon as possible. The U-2 successfully landed after having glided more than 300 miles, and its strange, glider-like appearance and the space-suited pilot startled the base commander and other witnesses.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 76–79.

Not all U-2 incidents would be so benign, with three fatal accidents occurring in 1956 alone. 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.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 79–80. There were other non-fatal incidents, including at least one that resulted in the loss of the aircraft.

Cover story
A committee of Army, Navy, Air Force, CIA, , and representatives created lists of priority targets for U-2 and other intelligence gathering methods. The U-2 project received the list and drew up flight plans, and the committee provided a detailed rationale for each plan for the president to consider as he decided whether to approve it. The CIA's Photo Intelligence Division grew in size to prepare for the expected flood of U-2 photographs. Before the aircraft became operational, however, the Air Force's , which used high altitude balloons to photograph the Soviet Union, China, and Eastern Europe, led to many from those countries and for a while CIA officials feared that the U-2 project was at risk. While Genetrix was also a technical failure—only 34 of the 516 balloons returned usable photographs—the balloon flights gave the United States many clues on how the Communist countries used radar to handle overflights, which benefited the U-2 program.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 80–88.

With approval from the (NACA)'s director , Bissell's team at the CIA developed a cover story for the U-2 that described the aircraft as used by NACA for high altitude weather research; the cover story would be used if the aircraft were lost over hostile territory. To support the story, U-2s several times took weather photographs that appeared in the press. The civilian advisers Land and Killian disagreed with the cover story, advising that if an aircraft was lost that the United States forthrightly acknowledge its use of U-2 overflights "to guard against surprise attack". Their advice was not followed, and the weather cover story led to the disaster that followed the May 1960 U-2 loss.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 89–90, 156-157, 216.

First overflights of Communist territory
The British government in January 1956 approved the U-2's deployment from . NACA announced that the USAF would use a Lockheed-developed aircraft to study the weather and cosmic rays at altitudes up to 55,000 feet; accordingly, the first CIA detachment of U-2s ("Detachment A") was known publicly as the 1st Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, Provisional (WSRP-1). The death in April 1956, however, of British agent while examining Soviet ships in harbor embarrassed the British government, which asked the United States to postpone the Lakenheath flights. To avoid delays, in June 1956, Detachment A moved to , Germany without approval from the German government, while was prepared as a more permanent base.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 93–95.

Eisenhower remained worried that despite their great intelligence value, overflights of the Soviet Union might cause a war. While the U-2 was under development, at the he proposed to that the Soviet Union and the United States would each grant the other country airfields to use to photograph military installations. Khruschev rejected the "Open Skies" proposal, and the CIA told the president that the Soviets could not track high altitude U-2 flights. This belief was based on studies using old Soviet radar systems and American systems that, unknown to the U.S., were not as effective at high altitudes as current Soviet systems. Although the Office of Scientific Intelligence issued a more cautious report in May 1956 that stated that detection was possible, it believed that the Soviets could not consistently track the aircraft. DCI Dulles further told Eisenhower, according to presidential aide , that in any aircraft loss the pilot would almost certainly not survive. With such assurances and the growing demand for accurate intelligence regarding the alleged "" between the United States and the Soviet Union, Eisenhower approved in June 1956 10 days of overflights.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 96–100.

The first U-2 overflight had already occurred, using existing authorization of Air Force overflights over Eastern Europe. On 20 June 1956 a U-2 flew over Poland and East Germany, with more flights on 2 July. The fact that radar had—contrary to the CIA's expectations—successfully tracked the aircraft worried Eisenhower, but he approved the first Soviet overflight, Mission 2013 on 4 July. U-2 Article 347's main target was the Soviet submarine construction program in , as well as counting the numbers of the new "Bison" bomber. A second flight on 5 July continued searching for Bisons, photographed 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 found that the Soviets could not consistently track the U-2s, and they therefore 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.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 100–108.

U-2 missions from Wiesbaden would depart westward in order to gain altitude over friendly territory before turning eastwards at operational altitudes. The NATO Air Defence mission in that area included , which operated the Mark 6 from bases centred on the northeastern corner of France. This aircraft had a service ceiling of 54,000 feet and numerous encounters between the U-2 and RCAF 'ZULU' alert flights have been recorded for posterity.Gummeson, Ray. "RCAF F-86 and U-2 Encounters." Archived Pinetree Line Website, March 2004. Retrieved: 25 October 2012.

"Bomber gap" disproven
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. Beyond the Soviet protests, the president was concerned about American public reaction to news that the U.S. had violated international law. To avoid project cancellation, the CIA began to make the U-2 less detectable. The eight overflights over Communist territory, however, had already shown that the bomber gap did not exist; the U-2s had not found any Bison bombers at the nine bases they had visited. Because the Eisenhower administration could not disclose the source of its intelligence, however, Congressional and public debate over the bomber gap continued.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 100–112.

Suez Crisis
The presidential order did not restrict U-2 flights outside Eastern Europe. In May 1956, Turkey approved the deployment of Detachment B at , near . Before the new detachment was ready, however, Detachment A in late August used Adana as a refueling base to photograph the Mediterranean. The aircraft found evidence of many British troops on Malta and Cyprus as the United Kingdom prepared for its forthcoming . 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. The Photo Intelligence Division set up a lab at Wiesbaden; as Detachment B took over from A and flew over targets that remain classified , the Wiesbaden lab's rapid reports helped the United States government to predict the Israeli-British-French attack on Egypt three days before it began on 29 October. On 1 November a flight flew over the Egyptian air base at Almaza twice, 10 minutes apart; in between the British and French attacked the base, and the visible results of the attack in the "ten-minute reconnaissance" impressed Eisenhower. Beginning on 5 November, flights over Syria showed that the Soviets had not sent aircraft there despite their threats against the British, French and Israelis, a cause of worry for the U.S.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 113–120.

Renewal of Eastern Bloc overflights
Eisenhower refused CIA pleas in September 1956 to reauthorize overflights of Eastern Europe but the in November, and , caused the president to permit flights over border areas. Soviet interceptors continued to fail to reach the U-2s but, after the Soviets protested a December overflight of Vladivostok by RB-57Ds, Eisenhower again forbade Communist overflights. Flights close to the border continued, now including the first -equipped U-2s. In May 1957, the president 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.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 122–124, 126–128. By 1957, one of the European units was based at Giebelstadt, and the Far Eastern unit was based at the , Japan. "Future Plans for Project AQUATONE/OILSTONE." Central Intelligence Agency, 29 July 1957, p. 2. Retrieved: 12 June 2010.

Part of the reason for the May reauthorization was that the CIA promised that improvements from Project RAINBOW would make the majority of U-2 flights undetected. On 2 April 1957, a RAINBOW test flight crashed in Nevada, killing the pilot. The U-2's large wingspan slowed its descent during crashes, often leaving its remains salvageable; Lockheed was able to rebuild the wreckage from the incident into a flyable airframe, but that it could do so should have been evidence to the CIA that its cover story might not be viable after a crash in hostile territory. The RAINBOW anti-radar modifications were not very successful, and their use ended in 1958.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 128–133.

Soviet overflights resumed in June 1957 from in Alaska to the , which had less effective radar systems. Others originated from . A Lahore flight on 5 August provided the first photographs of the near : the CIA had been unaware of its existence up to then. Other flights examined the nuclear test site and the missile test site.Heppenheimer 1998, p. 193.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 135–139. After a few more overflights that year, only five more would occur before the May 1960 incident because of Eisenhower's increasing cautiousness. The president sought to avoid angering the Soviets as he worked to achieve a ; meanwhile the Soviets began trying to shoot down even U-2 flights that never entered Soviet airspace, and the details in their diplomatic protests showed that Soviet radar operators were able to effectively track the aircraft. The Soviets developed their own overflight aircraft, variants of the , which in addition to photographing various parts of the world through the early 1960s acted as a target for the new and interceptors to practice for the U-2. Lockheed that helped them blend in against the darkness of space, and the CIA aircraft received the more powerful J75-P13 engine that increased maximum altitude by 2,500 feet, to 74,600.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 143–144, 147–152.

In April 1958, CIA source told his handler that a senior KGB official had boasted of having "full technical details" of the U-2, leading Bissell to conclude the project had a leak. The source of the leak was never identified, although there was speculation that it was , then a radar operator at a U-2 base in Japan.Nigel West (2007), Historical Dictionary of Cold War Counterintelligence, , p. 350

The "missile gap"
The successful launch of on 4 October 1957 gave credence to Soviet claims about the progress of its program, and began the in the United States. The U-2 intelligence caused Eisenhower to state in a press conference on 9 October that the launch did "not raise my apprehensions, not one iota", but he refused to disclose the U-2's existence as he believed that the Soviets would demand the end of the flights. ξ2 In December 1958 Khruschev boasted that a Soviet missile could deliver a 5-megaton warhead 8,000 miles. Although the Soviets' missile program was actually stalled due to technical failures, subsequent boasts—and United States Secretary of Defense 's statement in February 1959 to Congress that the Soviets might have a three-to-one temporary advantage in ICBMs during the early 1960s—caused widespread concern in the U.S. about the existence of a "missile gap". The American intelligence community was divided, with the CIA suspecting technical delays but the Air Force believing that the SS-6 was ready for deployment. Khruschev continued to exaggerate the Soviet program's success; the missile gap concerns, and CIA and State Department support, caused Eisenhower to reauthorize one Communist territory overflight in July 1959 after 16 months, as well as many flights along the Soviet border. One meanwhile occurred in December, and another in February 1960, but neither proved nor disproved the missile gap. The British flights' success contributed to Eisenhower's authorization of one overflight in April.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 159–168.

Khruschev claimed in his memoir that the April flight should have been shot down by new Soviet (SAMs), but the missile crews were slow to react. By this time, the CIA had concluded internally that Soviet SAMs had "a high probability of successful intercept at 70,000 feet providing that detection is made in sufficient time to alert the site", and the April flight was tracked quickly. Despite the now much greater risk, the CIA failed to stop the overflights because of overconfidence from the years of successful missions, and because of the strong demand for more missile site photos. By this time, the U-2 was the major source of covert intelligence on the Soviet Union; the aircraft had photographed about 15% of the country, resulting in almost 5,500 separate intelligence reports. Eisenhower authorized one more overflight to occur no later than 1 May, because the important Paris Summit would begin on 16 May.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 157, 169–172, 316.

May 1960 U-2 incident
The CIA chose for the mission—the 24th deep-penetration Soviet overflight—Operation GRAND SLAM, an ambitious flight plan for the first crossing of the Soviet Union from to ; previous flights had always exited in the direction from which they had entered. The route would permit visits to , , , , , and . , the most experienced pilot with 27 missions, was chosen to fly the U-2. After delays, the flight began on May Day, 1 May; this was a mistake because as an important Soviet holiday there was much less air traffic than usual. The Soviets began tracking the U-2 15 miles outside the border, and over Sverdlovsk, four and one half hours into the flight, one of three missiles detonated behind the aircraft at 70,500 feet; another hit a Soviet interceptor attempting to reach the American aircraft. Powers survived the near miss and was quickly captured; the crash did not destroy the U-2 and the Soviets were able to identify much of the equipment.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 170–177.

Bissell and other project officials believed that surviving a U-2 accident from above 70,000 feet was impossible, so used the preexisting cover story. On 3 May, the (NASA, the successor to NACA) announced that one of its aircraft, making a high altitude research flight in Turkey, was missing; the government planned to say, if necessary, that the NASA aircraft had drifted with an incapacitated pilot across the Soviet border. By remaining silent, Khruschev lured the Americans into reinforcing the cover story until he revealed on 7 May that Powers was alive and had confessed to spying on the Soviet Union. Eisenhower turned down DCI Dulles' offer to resign and publicly took full responsibility for the incident on 11 May; by then all overflights were canceled. The Paris Summit collapsed after Khruschev, as the first speaker, demanded an apology from the U.S., which Eisenhower refused.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 177–181.

Powers had little instruction on what to do during an interrogation. Although he had been told that he could reveal everything since the Soviets could learn what they wanted from the aircraft, Powers did his best to conceal classified information while appearing to cooperate. His trial began on 17 August 1960. Powers—who apologized on advice of his Soviet defense counsel—was sentenced to three years in prison, but on 10 February 1962 the USSR exchanged him and American student for at between West Berlin and Potsdam, Germany. Two CIA investigations found that Powers had done well during the interrogation and had "complied with his obligations as an American citizen during this period". Although the government was reluctant to reinstate him to the USAF because of its statements that the U-2 program was civilian, it had promised to do so after CIA employment ended. Powers resolved the dilemma by choosing to work for Lockheed as a U-2 pilot.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 181–186.

Changes to CIA program
Immediately after the Soviets announced that Powers was alive, the CIA evacuated the British pilots from Detachment B as Turkey did not know of their presence in the country.Lashmar, Paul. "Revealed: the RAF's secret Cold War heroes." The Independent, 26 January 1997. Retrieved: 17 August 2013. The end of Soviet overflights meant that Detachment B itself soon left Turkey, and in July Detachment C left Japan after a Japanese governmental request. Both detachments merged into Detachment G at , California, where the CIA had relocated the U-2 program after nuclear testing forced it to move from Groom Lake in 1957. By the next U-2 flight, in October 1960 over Cuba, the previously informal procedure in which the president personally approved or disapproved each flight after discussion with advisors was replaced by the Special Group. The expansion of partly compensated for the overflights' end, but because U-2 photographs remained superior to satellite imagery future administrations considered resumption at times, such as during the .Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 181–182, 187–188, 195–197.

From October 1960, Detachment G made many overflights of Cuba from , Texas. Although Lockheed modified six CIA aircraft into the -capable U-2F model in 1961, permitting some Cuba missions to originate from Edwards, pilot fatigue limited flights to about 10 hours. An August 1962 flight showed Soviet SA-2 SAM sites on the island; later overflights found more sites and the MiG-21 interceptor. The increasing number of SAMs caused the United States to more cautiously plan Cuban overflights. Air Force U-2s did not conduct overflights, but officials believed that it would be better for a military officer to be the pilot in case he was shot down. After receiving hasty training on the CIA's more-powerful U-2C, SAC Major flew an overflight of western Cuba on 14 October; his was the first to photograph Soviet in . SAC received permission to fly as many Cuban overflights as necessary for the duration of the resulting . On 27 October, a SA-2 missile killed SAC Major flying a CIA U-2C; he posthumously received the first . Fulfilling CIA officials' fears of a USAF takeover, CIA pilots never again flew over Cuba; SAC retained control over Cuban overflights,Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 197–210.Correll, John T. 2005/0805u2.aspx "Airpower and the Cuban Missile Crisis." Air Force Magazine, August 2005. Retrieved: 27 June 2009. which continued until the 1970s under the code name OLYMPIC FIRE. At the same time as the Crisis, of the made several practice interceptions against U-2s; under ground-controlled interception and using energy climb profiles, the Lightning could intercept the U-2 at up to 65,000 ft.Black, I. "Chasing the Dragon Lady". Classic Aircraft Volume 45, Number 8.

CIA overflights of Asian targets began in spring 1958, when Detachment C moved from Japan to in the Philippines to overfly Indonesia during an uprising against 's "" government. The CIA's , aiding the rebels, so badly needed pilots that it borrowed two CIA U-2 pilots despite the high risk to the U-2 program if one were captured. The Indonesian government soon defeated the rebels, however, and the U-2s returned to Japan. That year, Detachment C also flew over the Chinese coast near during the to see if Chinese forces were preparing to invade, and in 1959 aided CIA operations during the . The unit was collecting high altitude air samples to look for evidence of Soviet nuclear tests when it was withdrawn from Asia after the May 1960 U-2 incident.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 211–220.

Detachment G pilots began using the for North Vietnam overflights in February 1962, but as tactical intelligence became more important, after the of August 1964 SAC took over all U-2 missions in Indochina. In late November 1962, Detachment G was deployed to , , to carry out overflights of the Chinese-Indian border area after Indian Prime Minister requested military aid following the in October–November 1962. In 1963, India agreed to an American request for a permanent U-2 base for Soviet and Chinese targets, offering , although it was only briefly used and Takhli remained Department G's main Asian base.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 230–234.Raj, Yashwant. "India used US spy planes to map Chinese incursion in Sino-Indian war." Hindustan Times, 16 August 2013. After the Vietnamese cease fire in January 1973 prohibited American military flights, CIA pilots again used the unmarked Detachment H U-2 over North Vietnam during 1973 and 1974.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 246–247.

In 1963, the CIA started project Whale Tale to develop carrier-based U-2Gs to overcome range limitations. During development of the capability, CIA pilots took off and landed U-2Gs on the aircraft carrier and other ships. The U-2G was used only twice operationally. Both flights from Ranger occurred in May 1964 to observe France's development of an test range at in .Scott, Jeff. "U-2 Aircraft Carrier Operations.", 28 October 2001. Retrieved: 8 March 2009.Richelson 2006, pp. 212–213.

In early 1964, the (SAC) sent a detachment of U-2s from the 4080th to for high altitude reconnaissance missions over . On 5 April 1965, U-2s from the 4028th SRS (Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron) took photos of SAM-2 sites near and harbor. On 11 February 1966, the 4080th Wing was redesignated the (100 SRW) and moved to , . The SRS detachment at , South Vietnam, was redesignated the 349th SRS.Hobson 2001

The only loss of a U-2 during combat operations occurred on 8 October 1966, when Major Leo Stewart, flying with the 349th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, developed mechanical problems high over North Vietnam. The U-2 managed to return to South Vietnam where Stewart ejected safely. The U-2 crashed near its base at Bien Hoa. In July 1970, the 349th SRS at Bien Hoa moved to and was redesignated the , remaining there until March 1976.Hobson 2001, p. 269.

In 1969, the larger U-2Rs were flown from the carrier . The U-2 carrier program is believed to have been halted after 1969.. Retrieved: 26 December 2009.

In August 1970, two U-2Rs were deployed by the (NRO) to cover the Israeli-Egypt conflict under the code name EVEN STEVEN.McLucas, John L. "The Gambit and Hexagon Programs." National Reconnaissance Office, 18 December 1972.

In June 1976, the U-2s of the 100 SRW were transferred to the (9 SRW) at , California, and merged with aircraft operations there. When the (SAC) was disbanded in 1992, the wing was transferred to the new (ACC) and redesignated the (9 RW).

In 1977, a U-2R was retrofitted with an upward-looking window so that it could be used for high altitude astronomical observations of the (CMB). This experiment was the first to measure definitively the motion of the galaxy relative to the CMB, and established an upper limit on the rotation of the universe as a whole.G. F. Smoot, M. V. Gorenstein, and R. A. Muller. "Detection of Anisotropy in the Cosmic Blackbody Radiation." Physical Review Letters 39, pp. 898–901.

In 1984, during a major exercise, Flight Lieutenant Mike Hale intercepted a U-2 at a height of , where the aircraft had previously been considered safe from interception. Hale climbed to in his .Ross, Charles. "Lightning vs Concorde.", Lightning Association, 14 November 2004. Retrieved: 30 June 2011.

In 1989, a U-2R of 9th Reconnaissance Wing (RW), Detachment 5, flying out of , Florida successfully photographed a space shuttle launch for to assist in identifying the cause of tile loss during launch discovered in the initial post-Challenger missions.

On 19 November 1998, a NASA ER-2 research aircraft set a world record for altitude of in horizontal flight in the weight class. "NASA Aircraft Sets New World Altitude Record." Science Daily, 24 October 1998. Retrieved: 8 March 2009. General Aviation World Records, Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), Lausanne, Switzerland. Retrieved: 30 June 2011.

Recent use and planned retirement
The U-2 remains in front-line service more than 50 years after its first flight with the current U-2 beginning service in 1980. Today's U-2 received its most significant upgrade when it was converted from the U-2R to the U-2S in the mid-1990s when it received the turbofan engine. "Five Ways the U-2 Goes Above and Sees Beyond" Lockheed Martin, 19 February 2014. Retrieved 13 September 2014. This is due primarily to its ability to direct flights to objectives at short notice, something that surveillance satellites cannot do. The U-2 has outlasted its Mach 3 replacement, which was retired in 1998. A classified budget document approved by on 23 December 2005 called for the U-2 program's termination no earlier than 2012, with some aircraft being retired by 2007.Butler, Amy and David A Fulghum. . , 26 August 2008. Retrieved 10 March 2009. In January 2006, Secretary of Defense announced the U-2's pending retirement as a cost cutting measure, and as part of a larger reorganization and redefinition of the U.S. Air Force's mission.Sherman, Jason and Daniel G Dupont. "DoD Cuts Air Force Aircraft Fleet.", 11 January 2006. Retrieved 8 March 2009. Rumsfeld said that this will not impair the Air Force's ability to gather intelligence, which will be done by satellites and a growing supply of unmanned reconnaissance aircraft.

Retirement of the U-2 has been delayed by gaps in capability if the fleet was removed from service. In 2009, the Air Force stated that it planned to extend the U-2 retirement from 2012 until 2014 or later to allow more time to field the RQ-4 Global Hawk as a replacement.Tirpak, John A. 2009/0209course.aspx "12 Miles High, Changing Course." Arlington, : Air Force magazine, Air Force Association, February 2009. Retrieved 8 March 2009. Beginning in 2010, the began replacing U-2s operating from , South Korea.Min-seok, Kim. "US to base new unmanned spy plane in Korea." Joong Ang Daily, 19 December 2009. Retrieved 12 December 2011.

Upgrades late in the War in Afghanistan gave the U-2 greater reconnaissance and threat-detection capability.Evans, Michael, Pentagon Correspondent. "U2 eye-in-the-sky spy plane wins new lease of life in Afghanistan." The Times online, 24 March 2010. As of early 2010, U-2s from the have flown over 200 missions in support of Operations and ; as well as .Sturkol, Scott. "Dragon Lady Fires Up for Another Combat Mission in Southwest Asia." 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, 29 April 2010. Retrieved: 1 June 2010. A U-2 was stationed in Cyprus in March 2011 to help in the enforcement of the ,Grier, Peter. "Libya intervention: What's the endgame?" The Christian Science Monitor, 21 March 2011. Retrieved: 21 March 2011 and a U-2 stationed at in South Korea was used to provide imagery of the damaged by the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.Eshel, Tamir. "Satellite Imagery, U-2 Chart Japan’s Earthquake, Tsunami Devastation." Defense Update, 4 March 2011. Retrieved: 12 December 2011.

In March 2011, it was projected that the fleet of 32 U-2s would be operated until 2015.Brook, Tom Vanden. "After Five Decades, The U-2 Is Still Flying High." , 28 March 2011. Lockheed Martin determined in 2014 that the U-2S fleet has gone through only one-fifth of its design service life and is one of the youngest fleets within the US Air Force. "Five Ways the U-2 Goes Above and Sees Beyond". Lockheed Martin, 19 February 2014. Retrieved: 13 September 2014. In 2011, the U.S. Air Force intended to replace the U-2 with the RQ-4 before fiscal year 2015; proposed legislation required any replacement to have lower operating costs.Majumdar, Dave. "Global Hawk to replace U-2 spy plane in 2015." Air Force Times, 10 August 2011. Retrieved: 22 August 2011. In January 2012, the Air Force reportedly planned to end the RQ-4 Block 30 program and extend the U-2's service life until 2023.Shalal-Esa, Andrea. "U.S. Air Force to Kill Global Hawk UAV." Aviation Week, 24 January 2012. Retrieved: 24 January 2012.Majumdar, Dave. "Sources: USAF To Kill Block 30 Global Hawks." Defense News 25 January 2012. Retrieved: 25 January 2012. The RQ-4 Block 30 has been kept in service due to political pressure over Air Force objections, who state that the U-2 costs $2,380 per flight hour compared to the RQ-4's $6,710 as of early 2014. Analysts predict A-10, U-2 retirements in FY15 -, 7 February 2014. Critics have pointed out that the RQ-4's cameras and sensors are less capable, and that it lacks all-weather operating capability; however, the Air Force may install some of the U-2's sensors upon the RQ-4. Global Hawk Trails U-2 Despite Retirement Plans -, 27 February 2014. Retirement of the U-2 would not begin until FY 2016, at which point the RQ-4 Block 30's capabilities are planned to match the U-2's; the replacement effort is motivated by decreases in the RQ-4's cost per flying hour..

In May 2014, a U-2 was accused of inadvertently causing an air traffic disruption in the Western US due to an apparent software glitch... The Air Force stated the U-2 did not cause the problems because it did not emit any electronic signals that could have scrambled the control center’s computers. Technicians resolved the issue.. In analyzing the problem, the FAA determined the cause to be a flight plan entry error that overwhelmed the memory capacity of the air traffic system..

The U-2's retirement was calculated to save $2.2 billion. $1.77 billion will have to be spent over 10 years to enhance the RQ-4, including $500 million on a universal payload adapter to attach U-2 sensors onto the RQ-4. Air Force officials fear that retiring the U-2 while the RQ-4 is being upgraded will lead to a capability gap; other high-altitude ISR platforms would be used to substitute including satellites and the secretive and UAVs.. In the 's markup of the FY 2015 budget, language was included prohibiting the use of funds to retire or store the U-2; it also requested a report outlining the transition capabilities from the U-2 to the RQ-4 Block 30 in light of capability gap concerns.

In late 2014, Lockheed Martin proposed unmanned U-2 version with greater payload capability to compete with the Global Hawk.Butler, Amy. " Lockheed Updates Unmanned U-2 Concept" , 24 November 2014. Accessed 24 November 2014. Archived on 24 September 2014 In early 2015, the Air Force was directed to restart modest funding for the U-2 for operations and research, development, and procurement. Funding is to be provided through FY 2018, keeping the Global Hawk from replacing it at least until then.. The former head of the , Gen. Mike Hostage helped extend the U-2S to ensure combat commanders receive sufficient ISR intelligence and support coverage. Hostage stated "it will take eight years before the RQ-4 Global Hawk fleet can support 90% of the coverage of the U-2 fleet.Clark, Colin. and Sydney J. Freedberg, ed. "Air Force, riding Budget Boost, Warns on Sequester; U-2 Is BACK!"., 2 February 2015. Retrieved 25 February 2015.

United Kingdom
Bissell suggested bringing the British into the program to increase the number of overflights. Prime Minister agreed the plan, and four (RAF) officers were selected and sent to Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas, for training in May 1958. On 8 July the senior British pilot, Christopher H. Walker, was killed when his U-2 malfunctioned and crashed near Wayside, Texas. This was the first death involving the U-2 and the circumstances were not disclosed for over 50 years. Another pilot was quickly selected and sent to replace Walker. After training the group of RAF U-2 pilots arrived in Turkey in November 1958, shortly after the CIA's Detachment B from Adana provided valuable intelligence during the with both the United States and United Kingdom involvement. Since the September 1956 disclosure of Mediterranean photographs, the United Kingdom had received U-2 intelligence, except during the Suez Crisis. The CIA and Eisenhower viewed using British pilots as a way of increasing for the flights. The CIA also saw British participation as a way of obtaining additional Soviet overflights that the president would not authorize. The United Kingdom gained the ability to target flights toward areas of the world the United States was less interested in, and possibly avoid another Suez-like interruption of U-2 photographs.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 152–156, 181.

Although the RAF unit operated as part of Detachment B, the UK formally received title to the U-2s their pilots would fly, and Eisenhower wrote to Prime Minister that because of the separate lines of authority, the nations were conducting "two complementary programs rather than a joint one".Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, p. 156. A secret bank account paid the RAF pilots, whose cover was employment with the . While most British flights occurred over the Middle East during the two years the UK program existed, two missions over Soviet missile test sites were very successful. Like Eisenhower, Macmillan personally approved the Soviet overflights. The British direct involvement in overflights ended after the May 1960 U-2 downing incident; although four pilots remained stationed in California until 1974, the CIA's official history of the program stated that "RAF pilots never again conducted another overflight in an Agency U-2."Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 156–157, 181. In 1960 and 1961 the first four pilots received the , but their U-2 experience remained secret.

Taiwan (Republic of China)
(Republic of China, or ROC) flew U-2 missions mostly over the People's Republic of China (PRC). Since the 1950s, the had used the RB-57D aircraft for reconnaissance missions over the PRC, but suffered two losses when MiG-17s and surface-to-air missiles were able to intercept the aircraft.

The USAF desired to provide the U-2 to Taiwan. A group of ROC pilots trained to fly the aircraft in 1959, but the CIA opposed exporting the U-2 because it would affect the CIA's cover story. After the May 1960 incident revealed the aircraft's existence, however, Eisenhower approved the transfer because ROC pilots flying ROC aircraft could not be formally connected to the U.S. The CIA called the two U-2s that arrived in Taoyuan Air Base "Detachment H"; one aircraft was left unpainted for CIA use. Both the American and Taiwanese governments approved each flight, and the U.S. processed the film and gave copies to the ROC. Overflights of China began on 12 January 1962 with a visit to the Shuangchengzi missile test range; future flights photographed the nuclear test site and air bases at . The first loss occurred on 9 September 1962, when the PRC shot down a U-2 near . The pilot Chen Huai (Chen was his last name) was seriously injured and later died in the hospital. The U.S. denied PRC accusations of involvement in the ROC flights, noting that the previous Eisenhower administration had sold the U-2s to Taiwan. This was a cover story, however, as the CIA maintained Detachment H's U-2s and replaced them as necessary, and CIA pilots from Detachment G began using Detachment H's unmarked U-2 for flights over North Vietnam in February 1962.Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 222–230.

The demand for intelligence on the grew but so did the number of PRC SAM sites and use of the radar, and ROC overflights became more dangerous. Two more ROC U-2s were shot down, one on 1 November 1963 and one on 7 July 1964, and the Taiwanese demanded improved (ECM) equipment. Detachment H's U-2s had the System XII radar detector but not the sophisticated System XIII radar jammer, because the feared its loss to the PRC. The need for intelligence on the Chinese nuclear program was so great that the Defense Department agreed to install improved ECM equipment, but insisted that pilots not turn System XIII on until System XII detected FAN SONG. After another ROC U-2 was lost in circumstances that remain classified , Taiwan refused to conduct further overflights unless its pilots could use System XIII whenever over the PRC. All U-2 PRC overflights ended in 1968, however, because the SA-2 missile and MiG-21 interceptors were now too dangerous. In 104 overflights, five U-2s had been shot down, with three pilots killed and two captured. Detachment H still conducted flights near the Chinese border. All ROC Detachment H operations ended in March 1972, after President .Pedlow and Welzenbach 1992, pp. 234–246.

In 1958, ROC and American authorities reached an agreement to create the 35th Squadron, nicknamed the , composed of two U-2Cs in Taoyuan Airbase in northern Taiwan, at an isolated part of the airbase. To create misdirection typical of the time, the unit was created under the cover of high altitude weather research missions for ROCAF. To the U.S. government, the 35th Squadron and any U.S. CIA/USAF personnel assigned to the unit were known as Detachment H on all documents. But instead of being under normal USAF control, the project was known as Project Razor, "Project RAZOR." Taiwan Air Blog, updated 11 April 2007. Retrieved: 14 September 2009. "Project RAZOR." Taiwan Air Blog, updated 15 April 2007. Retrieved: 14 September 2009. and was run directly by CIA with USAF assistance.

Each of the 35th Squadron's operational missions had to be approved by both the U.S. and the Taiwan/ROC presidents beforehand. To add another layer of security and secrecy to the project, all U.S. military and CIA/government personnel stationed in Taoyuan assigned to Detachment H were issued official documents and ID with false names and cover titles as Lockheed employees/representatives in civilian clothes. The ROCAF pilots and ground support crew would never know their U.S. counterparts' real names and rank/titles, or which U.S. government agencies they were dealing with.

A total of 26 of 28 ROC pilots sent to the U.S. completed training between 1959 and 1973, at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. "Taiwan Air Power, U-2 Page, pilots." Retrieved: 24 February 2010. On the night of 3 August 1959, a U-2 on a training mission, out of Laughlin AFB, Texas, piloted by Major Mike Hua of ROC Air Force, made a successful unassisted nighttime emergency landing at , Colorado, that was later known as , and Major Hua was later awarded the U.S. Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross for saving the top secret aircraft. "U-2 Landing at Cortez (August 3, 1959)." Retrieved: 12 December 2011. "50th Anniversary Night Forced Landing in Cortez, CO (Slideshow/video in both Chinese and English)." Retrieved: 14 February 2010.Steves, Bob. "There I was ..." Air Force, February 1989. Retrieved: 14 February 2010. "A Miracle At Cortez." Air Force Magazine, August 1989. Retrieved: 14 February 2010.

In July 1960, the CIA provided the ROC with its first two U-2Cs, and in December the squadron flew its first mission over mainland China. Other countries were also covered from time to time by the 35th Squadron, such as North Korea, "Target North Korea." Taiwan Air Blog, updated 23 April 2009. Retrieved: 15 September 2009. North Vietnam and Laos, but the main objective of the ROC 35th Squadron was to conduct reconnaissance missions assessing the . For this purpose the ROC pilots flew as far as and other remote regions in northwest China. Some of the missions, due to mission requirements and range, plus to add some element of surprise, had the 35th Squadron's U-2s flying from or recovered at other U.S. air bases in Southeast Asia and Eastern Asia, such as K-8 (Kunsan) in South Korea, or Tikhli in Thailand. All U.S. airbases in the region were listed as emergency/ alternate recovery airfields and could be used besides the 35th Squadron's home base at Taoyuan airbase in Taiwan. Initially, all film taken by the Black Cat Squadron would be flown to Okinawa or Guam for processing and development, and the U.S. forces would not share any of the mission photos with Taiwan. Only in late 1960s did the USAF agree to share a complete set of mission photos and help Taiwan set up a photo development and interpretation unit at Taoyuan AB.

In 1968, the ROC U-2C/F/G fleet was replaced with the newer U-2R. However, with the coming of the and the between the U.S. and the PRC, the ROC U-2 squadron stopped entering Chinese airspace, and instead only conducted electronic intelligence-gathering plus photo-reconnaissance missions with new Long Range Oblique Reconnaissance (LOROP) cameras on the U-2R while flying over international waters. The last U-2 aircraft mission over mainland China took place on 16 March 1968. After that, all missions had the U-2 aircraft fly outside a buffer zone at least around China.

During his visit to China in 1972, U.S. President promised the Chinese authorities to cease all reconnaissance missions near and over China, though this was also made practical because U.S. photo satellites by 1972 were able to provide better overhead images without risking losing aircraft and pilots, or provoking international incidents. The last 35th Squadron mission was flown by Sungchou "Mike" Chiu on 24 May 1974. "The End of an Era." Taiwan Air Blog, 7 April 2006. Retrieved: 14 September 2009.

At the end of ROC's U-2 operations, out of a total of 19 U-2C/F/G/R aircraft operated by the 35th Squadron from 1959 to 1974, 11 were lost. "U-2 page: Aircraft." Taiwan Air Power. Retrieved: 26 December 2009. The squadron flew a total of about 220 missions, "U-2 page: Missions." Taiwan Air Power. Retrieved: 26 December 2009. with about half over mainland China, resulting in five aircraft shot down, with three fatalities and two pilots captured, and another six U-2s lost in training with six pilots killed. On 29 July 1974, the two remaining U-2R aircraft in ROC possession were flown from Taoyuan AB in Taiwan to Edwards AFB, California, US, and turned over to the USAF. "Thou Shalt Not Fly ... Ever." Taiwan Air Power, 1 August 2009. Retrieved: 14 September 2009."Brief History of U-2." Defence International Taiwan, ROC (全球防衛雜誌), Vol. 35, Issue 5, May 2002.


Primary list
Sub-section source: "Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady: Tactical Reconnaissance." Aerospaceweb. Retrieved: 8 March 2009.

Initial production, single-seat; engine; 48 built
Two-seat trainer; P&W J57-P-31 engine; five built
Enhanced single-seat model with engine and modified engine intakes
Enhanced two-seat trainer
Enhanced two-seat trainer rebuilt from U-2Ds with relocation of the seats; six known converted.
Aerial refueling capable, J57-powered
Aerial refueling capable, J75-powered
A-models modified with reinforced landing gear, added , and lift dump spoilers on the wings for carrier operations; three converted.
Aircraft carrier capable, aerial refueling capable

Re-designed airframes enlarged nearly 30 percent with underwing pods and increased fuel capacity; 14 built.
Enhanced two-seat R-model trainer; one built.
Proposed U.S. Navy maritime R-model; two built.
A third production batch of U-2R aircraft built for high-altitude tactical reconnaissance missions with , new , and improved equipment; 33 built. Re-designated U-2S after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Two TR-1A airframes completed as two-seat conversion trainers
New redesignated TR-1B two-seat trainer with improved engine; five converted
Two TR-1A airframes, AF Ser. No. 80-1063, and Ser. No. 80-1097, are modified as an Earth resources research aircraft, moved from USAF to NASA and operated by the NASA High-Altitude Missions Branch, . NASA flies Ser. No. 80-1097 as N609NA and Ser. No. 80-1063 as N806NA
Redesignation of the TR-1A and U-2R aircraft with updated engine, improved sensors, and addition of a receiver; 31 converted.
Atmospheric/weather research WU-model

U-2E/F/H details
In May 1961, in a little-known attempt to extend the U-2's already considerable range, Lockheed modified six CIA U-2s and several USAF U-2s with aerial refueling equipment, which allowed the aircraft to receive fuel from either the or from the . This extended the aircraft's range from approximately and extended its endurance to more than 14 hours. The -powered U-2Bs were re-designated U-2E and the -powered U-2Cs were redesignated U-2F.Polmar 2001, p. 173. Each modified U-2 also included an additional oxygen cylinder. However, pilot fatigue was not considered, and little use was made of the refueling capability. The one and only U-2H was both air refueling-capable and carrier-capable.. Retrieved: 26 December 2009.Pocock, Chris. "Lockheed U-2C/TR-1/U-2R/S.", 6 January 2008. Retrieved: 8 March 2009.

U-2R/S details
The U-2R, first flown in 1967, is significantly larger and more capable than the original aircraft. A tactical reconnaissance version, the TR-1A, first flew in August 1981. A distinguishing feature of these aircraft is the addition of a large instrumentation "superpod" under each wing. Designed for standoff tactical reconnaissance in Europe, the TR-1A was structurally identical to the U-2R. The , , England used operational TR-1As from 1983 until 1991. The last U-2 and TR-1 aircraft were delivered to the U.S. Air Force in October 1989. In 1992 all TR-1s were re-designated to U-2R for uniformity across the fleet. The two-seat trainer variant of the TR-1, the TR-1B, was redesignated as the TU-2R. After upgrading with the GE F-118-101 engine, the former U-2Rs were designated the U-2S Senior Year.

ER-2 details
A derivative of the U-2 known as the ER-2 (Earth Resources −2), in NASA's white livery, is based at the and is used by for high-altitude civilian research including Earth resources, celestial observations, atmospheric chemistry and dynamics, and oceanic processes. Programs using the aircraft include the , and . Landings are assisted by another pilot at speeds exceeding in a chase car. "NASA's White Charger to the Rescue." NASA Dryden. Retrieved: 3 June 2011.

:1st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron 1990-92
:5th Strategic Reconnaissance Training Squadron 1986-90
:95th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron 1991-92 (RAF Alconbury, UK)
:99th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron 1976-92
:4029th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron 1981-86
:9 SRW Detachment 2; , 1976-92
:9 SRW Detachment 3; , Cyprus 1970-92
:9 SRW Detachment 4; , UK 1976-82
:9 SRW Detachment 5; , FL 1976-92
:95th Reconnaissance Squadron
:99th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron 1972-76 (U-Tapao Air Base, Thailand)
:349th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron 1966-76
  • 1700th Reconnaissance Wing (Provisional) - Al Taif Air Base, Saudi Arabia 1990-92
:1704th Reconnaissance Squadron
:4025th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron
:4028th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron
: 1992-present
: 1994-present (Osan Air Base, South Korea)
: 1992-93
: 1992-present
:Detachment 2; Osan AB, South Korea 1992-94
:Detachment 3; RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus 1992-present
:Detachment 4; RAF Alconbury, UK 1993-95
:::::RAF Fairford, UK 1995-98
:::::Istres AB, France 1998-2000
:99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron
:99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron
  • 4404th Provisional Wing - Prince Sultan AB, Saudi Arabia 1992-98
:4402d Reconnaissance Squadron
- , California
  • 6510th Test Group
:4th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron (Provisional) 1956-60
:6512th Test Squadron 1960-80
  • 1130th Air Technical Training Group 1969-74

- , California (1981–97); Palmdale, California (1997–present)

- 1956-1974

:Detachment A, Germany
:Detachment B, Turkey
:Detachment C, Japan
:Detachment G, California

Aircraft on display


  • 56-6676 - wreckage is on display at three museums in Cuba. It was flown by Major , USAF, and was shot down during the on 27 October 1962 by a Soviet-supplied (NATO designation SA-2 Guideline) near . One of the engine intakes is at the Museo Girón at village, in the province of Matanzas, at the entrance to Bahia de Cochinos, or . The engine and portion of the tail assembly from the U-2 is at the in Havana. The right wing, a portion of the tail assembly, and front landing gear are at the Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña, or La Cabaña, Havana. The two latter groups of parts were previously displayed at the , Havana. U.S. Air Force. Retrieved: 18 October 2012.



United Kingdom

United States

Notable appearances in media
In the 1980s television series "", the U-2 was the "main ride" of U.S. Air Force Colonel Raynor Sarnac from the October 1962 Cuba Crisis to 1979. "Call to Glory." Retrieved: 13 September 2009. The image of a U-2 was used on the cover of the band 's controversial 1991 EP titled .Land, Mark. "U-2 (1991)." Negativmailorderland. Retrieved: 22 August 2010.

Specifications (U-2S)

See also


  • Donald, David, ed. "U-2 The Second Generation". Black Jets. Westport, , USA: AIRtime, 2003. ISBN 1-880588-67-6.
  • ξ3
  • Ellis, Ken. Wrecks & Relics, 22nd ed. Manchester, UK: Crecy Publishing, 2010. ISBN 978-0-85979-150-2.
  • Fensch, Thomas. The CIA and the U-2 Program: 1954–1974. Chula Vista, , USA: New Century Books, 2001. ISBN 0-930751-09-4.
  • Frawley, Gerard. The International Directory of Military Aircraft. Fyshwick, : Aerospace Publications, 2002. ISBN 1-875671-55-2.
  • Heppenheimer, TA. The Space Shuttle Decision. Washington, D.C: NASA, 1998.
  • Hobson, Chris. Vietnam Air Losses, USAF, USN, USMC, Fixed-Wing Aircraft Losses in Southeast Asia 1961–1973. North Branch, , USA: Specialty Press, 2001. ISBN 1-85780-115-6.
  • Jenkins, Dennis R. Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady. North Branch, , USA: Specialty Press, 1998. ISBN 1-58007-009-4.
  • Miller, Jay. Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works: The Official History… (upd. ed.) Leicester, UK: Midland Publishing, 1995. ISBN 1-85780-037-0.
  • North, David M. U-2 Pilot Reportp1.pdf Flying the U-2
  • North, David M. U-2 Pilot Reportp2.pdf Pilot selection process arduous
  • Pedlow, Gregory W. & Donald E Welzenbach. The Central Intelligence Agency and Overhead Reconnaissance: The U-2 and Oxcart Programs, 1954–1974. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 1992. ISBN 0-7881-8326-5.
  • Pocock, Chris. 50 Years of the U-2: The Complete Illustrated History of Lockheed's Legendary Dragon Lady. Atglen, , USA: Schiffer Publishers, 2005. ISBN 0-7643-2346-6.
  • Polmar, Norman. Spyplane: The U-2 History Declassified. St. Paul, , USA: Zenith Imprint, 2001. ISBN 0-7603-0957-4.
  • Richelson, Jeffrey T. Spying on the Bomb: American Nuclear Intelligence from Nazi Germany to Iran and North Korea. New York: WW Norton & Co, 2006. ISBN 978-0-393-05383-8.
  • Suhler, Paul A. From Rainbow to Gusto: Stealth and the Design of the Lockheed Blackbird. Reston, : American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 2009. ISBN 1-60086-712-X.
  • The World's Great Stealth and Reconnaissance Aircraft. New York: Smithmark, 1991. ISBN 0-8317-9558-1.

External links

    ^ (2019). 9781563118470, Turner Publishing.
    ^ (2019). 9780679644293, Random House.
    ^ (2019). 9781904687849, Amber Books.

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