U2 Spy Plane Flies High Again

Discussion in 'SitRep' started by ToughOmbre, Mar 26, 2010.

  1. ToughOmbre

    ToughOmbre Active Member

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    I was 11 years old and can still remember when Francis Gary Powers was shot down over the USSR. Glad to see the U2 is still earning her keep!

    March 26, 2010

    From the Times of London

    The U2 spy aircraft, famed for high-altitude Cold War espionage missions over the Soviet Union, is enjoying a new lease of life in Afghanistan as the best spotter of Taliban roadside bombs in the allies’ arsenal.

    Four years ago, the Pentagon wanted to retire the aircraft, which took its first test flight more than half a century ago. Since being fitted with new sensors and communications equipment, however, it has become an indispensable eye-in-the-sky for NATO forces.

    From its 70,000-foot cruising altitude, the U2's high-resolution camera is capable of spotting slight changes in the country’s dry mud paths where Taliban forces often bury improvised explosive device.

    U.S. military officials said that in the lead-up to the recent operation to seize Marjah in central Helmand from the Taliban, a U2 — nicknamed Dragon Lady because of its long wingspan — spotted almost 150 suspected bombs dug into roads and at planned helicopter landing sites around the town.

    Its success in this new role is a remarkable transformation in the fortunes of the U2. It was designed in secrecy and began flying spy missions in 1956. In April 1960, a U2 piloted by Gary Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union and, during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, the aircraft uncovered Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba.

    Although it has been used in every major conflict involving the U.S. since the 1960s, the Pentagon believed that it had outlived its usefulness and wanted it replaced — until Congress saved it from military obsolescence.

    TO
     
  2. Messy1

    Messy1 Well-Known Member

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    Wow, great story. One plane the US has definitely gotten it's money out of.
     
  3. Thorlifter

    Thorlifter Well-Known Member

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    Nice to see a ghost gets a new lease on life.....
     
  4. Aaron Brooks Wolters

    Aaron Brooks Wolters Well-Known Member

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    I agree with you guys. I think someone posted a link to a video of a recent U-2 flight that took a British journalist up. The video was spectacular. I see if I can find the thread.
     
  5. Aaron Brooks Wolters

    Aaron Brooks Wolters Well-Known Member

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    Glad to see they are still using the U-2. Great aircraft. Torch posted a video link herehttp://www.ww2aircraft.net/forum/aviation-videos/flying-high-23871.html , it is spectacular. Sorry for the double post. It didn't show up the first time and I thought that I had absentmindedly forgotten to hit the post button.:oops:
     
  6. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    Sweet! Ole' girl still has some tricks left to turn!!! :salute:
     
  7. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    #7 FLYBOYJ, Mar 26, 2010
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2010
    These aircraft are obviously a lot different from the U-2s of the early 1960s. Many of the ones being operated today started life out as TR-1s and were built in the 1980s. I think all of these are now U-2R and S models.

    One of my first jobs at Lockheed was rebuilding the wingtip pogos.
     
  8. Pong

    Pong Active Member

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    Wow, nearly fifty years on, she still flies! :salute:
     
  9. Aaron Brooks Wolters

    Aaron Brooks Wolters Well-Known Member

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    You have one of the coolest jobs Joe.:salute:
     
  10. Messy1

    Messy1 Well-Known Member

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    Joe, so these airframes they are using now would not necessarily be 50 years old. What would be the major changes made to the plane?
     
  11. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    These airframes are probably from the 70's and 80's and I'd guess most of them were retrofitted from TR-1s. They are larger and have more powerful engines than the first ones flown. The TR-1s carried two pods under each wing that housed additional equipment. It seems the current U-2R/S did away with that. These aircraft have all kinds of equipment bays that carried 1960s - 80s era technology optical and sensor equipment. With continued miniaturization of such equipment since that time, I'd imagine the same bays carry twice the equipment.
     
  12. comiso90

    comiso90 Active Member

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    From Cold War espionage missions over the Soviet Union to spotting changes in mud paths in Afghanistan...


    Sigh....


    ,
     
  13. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Don't forget upper atmosphere air sample collection and ice cap photography...
     
  14. comiso90

    comiso90 Active Member

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    True

    I like to think that the old bird did such a good job over the last 50 years that looking for disturbed mud and a improvised explosive is testimony to her success.

    Just seems a bit weird

    .
     
  15. Thorlifter

    Thorlifter Well-Known Member

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    It does seem a little weird Comiso, but the ol bird is still saving lives by her discoveries.
     
  16. badbear

    badbear Member

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    Yes but spotting mud changes is saving the lives of our brave service men and women!.BB
     
  17. ToughOmbre

    ToughOmbre Active Member

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    The number of years years in service, since first flight till now, puts the U2, pardon the pun, in rarefied air along with the C-47/DC-3 and the B-52.

    TO
     
  18. Night Fighter Nut

    Night Fighter Nut Well-Known Member

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    There is an old U-2 in Jefferson County working for NOAH. A meterological group that does atmospheric readings around the world. They also have a PC3 Orion and a C 130 Hercules. All used for atmospheric readings. :)
     
  19. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    I thknk the U-2 and P-3 are now gone. I think they still have the C-130 and a Sabreliner.
     
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