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U-2 Reconnaissance Jets Still Flying

I came across an article over on Military.com and thought it should be shared as widely as possible.  It seems that Congress had a decent thought for a change and has directed the USAF to delay the retirement of its U-2 reconnaissance jets for a while longer.  They’re still great jets with over 100 projected years left in their airframe service life after all.

From Military.com:

January 05, 2010
Stars and Stripes|by Franklin Fisher

It was born during the Cold War more than 50 years ago, and the Air Force deems it the world’s toughest plane to fly. But the high-altitude U-2 reconnaissance plane is so valued for its intelligence-gathering capabilities that, even in an age of high-tech unmanned drones, the old spy plane has found a whole new mission over the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The U-2 reconnaissance plane’s mission is changing. The new mission amounts to a landmark shift in how the venerable aircraft can be used: The U-2 now gives direct support to ground operations, including assisting troops in firefights.

Unmanned drones can “look” — get pictures of the battlefield. But so far, they can’t “listen” — eavesdrop electronically.

The U-2 does both.

Kelly Johnson, the crew at the Skunk Works, and the subcontractors who all made the U-2 happen got it right.  To learn more about the people who made the U-2 and other programs such as the A-12 and the SR-71 into the successes that they’ve been recognized as happen, check out area51specialprojects.com and roadrunnersinternationale.com.  These aren’t UFO websites.  Both sites are maintained by T.D. Barnes who’s also the President of the Road Runners Internationale which is the alumni association for those who made these programs possible.  I’m just an associate member of this group as I wasn’t there when it all happened, but I’m honored to have met some of those who were.

I realize that not many people really know what goes into a U-2 flight or what it’s like to fly such a machine.  For those readers who wish to understand a bit more, I direct your attention to a short video from the BBC television program Top Gear.  Usually, Top Gear does crazy stunts and reviews cars for which I wish I could afford to pay the insurance or fuel bills.  This time, Top Gear arranged for one of their presenters, James May, to go on a rare press publicity flight in a U-2 with Major John “Cabi” Cabigas of the United States Air Force. I cannot recommend watching these videos enough – they’re truly awesome 8)

This is only a small view of what goes into flying the U-2, but it gives you some idea.

Here’s to many more years of the Dragon Lady flying high!

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2 comments to U-2 Reconnaissance Jets Still Flying

  • Good Article, Jeff. It is amazing that a difficult to fly plane like the U-2 is still in service while those built to replace it are in museums. I’ve attached a photo of a modern day U-2 pilot that I find a bit more attractive than the Brit in your videos. I made it my job to check the PSI of “her” flight suit. I’m kidding, of course.

    TD Barnes and a U-2 pilot at a Road Runners reunion

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