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Lockheed U-2

Knowledge Identifier: $Lockheed_U-2

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Lockheed U-2

Single-engine, high altitude reconnaissance aircraft operated by the United States Air Force and previously flown by the Central Intelligence Agency add

Category: Business (6)

Launched in 1950.

Countries: United States (14%), China (10%), Taiwan (9%)

Main connections: Soviet Union, Lockheed Corporation, California

Linked to: NASA, Lockheed Corporation, NATO, Glenn L. Martin Company

 

Timeline


 

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1950

Into the 1950s the best intelligence the American government had on the interior of the Soviet Union was German Luftwaffe photographs taken during the war of territory west of the Ural Mountains, so overflights to take aerial photographs of the Soviet Union began add something

 

Since the 1950s, the Republic of China Air Force had used the RB-57D aircraft for reconnaissance missions over the PRC, but suffered two losses when MiG-17s and SA-2 surface-to-air missiles were able to intercept the aircraft add something


1953

Another U.S. Air Force officer, John Seaberg, wrote in 1953 a request for proposal for an aircraft that could reach 70,000 feet over a target with 1,500 nautical miles of operational radius add something


1954

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 Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory believed was necessary for safety add something

 

In June 1954 the USAF rejected the design in favor of the Bell X-16 and the modified B-57 add something


1955

Air Research and Development Command mandated changes to the design which, although they made the aircraft more durable during wartime, meant that the resulting RB-57D aircraft of 1955 could only reach 64,000 feet add something

 

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 reiterated his opposition to military personnel flying the aircraft add something

 

Shell Oil developed a new low-volatility, low vapor pressure jet fuel that would not evaporate at high altitudes; the fuel became known as JP-7, and manufacturing several hundred thousand gallons for the aircraft in 1955 caused a nationwide shortage of Shell's Flit insect repellant add something

 

They did not have the appropriate flying experience for the U-2, however, and the language barrier was a problem; by fall 1955 the foreign pilots were out of the program add something

 

While the U-2 was under development, at the 1955 Geneva Summit he proposed to Nikita Khruschev that the Soviet Union and the United States would each grant the other country airfields to use to photograph military installations add something

 

The aircraft was renamed the U-2 in July 1955, the same month the first aircraft, Article 341, was delivered to Groom Lake add something

 

Test pilot Tony LeVier trained other Lockheed pilots to fly the U-2, who by September 1955 trained six USAF pilots who, in turn, trained the "sheep-dipped" pilots add something


1956

Not all U-2 incidents would be so benign, with three fatal accidents occurring in 1956 alone add something

 

By January 1956 the U-2 so impressed SAC that it wished to purchase its own aircraft add something

 

The British government in January 1956 approved the U-2's deployment from RAF Lakenheath add something

 

Meanwhile, U-2s conducted eight overflights of the United States during April 1956 that convinced the project that the aircraft was ready for deployment add something

 

The death, however, in April 1956 of British agent Lionel Crabb while examining Soviet ships in Portsmouth harbor, embarrassed the British government, which asked the United States to postpone the Lakenheath flights add something

 

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 add something

 

In May 1956 Turkey approved the deployment of Detachment B at Incirlik Air Base, near Adana add something

 

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 add something

 

To avoid delays, in June 1956, Detachment A moved to Wiesbaden, Germany without approval from the German government, while Giebelstadt Army Airfield was prepared as a more permanent base add something

 

With such assurances and the growing demand for accurate intelligence regarding the alleged "bomber gap" between the United States and the Soviet Union, Eisenhower approved in June 1956 10 days of overflights add something

 

On 20 June 1956 a U-2 flew over Poland and East Germany, with more flights on 2 July add something

 

Eisenhower refused CIA pleas in September 1956 to reauthorize overflights of Eastern Europe but the Hungarian Revolution in November, and his reelection that month, caused the president to permit flights over border areas add something

 

Since the September 1956 disclosure of Mediterranean photographs, the United Kingdom had received U-2 intelligence add something

 

The company agreed to deliver the first aircraft by July of that year and the last by November 1956 add something

 

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 add something


1957

Both detachments merged into Detachment G at Edwards Air Force Base, California, where the CIA had relocated the U-2 program after nuclear testing forced it to move from Groom Lake in 1957 add something

 

By 1957, one of the European units was based at Giebelstadt, and the Far Eastern unit was based at the Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan add something

 

On 2 April 1957 a RAINBOW test flight crashed in Nevada, killing the pilot add something

 

In May 1957 the president again authorized overflights over certain important Soviet missile and atomic facilities add something

 

Soviet overflights resumed in June 1957 from Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska to the Russian Far East, which had less effective radar systems add something

 

The successful launch of Sputnik 1 in October 1957 gave credence to Soviet claims about the progress of its ICBM program add something


1958

CIA overflights of Asian targets began in spring 1958, when Detachment C moved from Japan to Cubi Point Naval Air Station in the Philippines to overflight Indonesia during an uprising against Sukarno's "Guided Democracy" government add something

 

In 1958, ROC and American authorities reached an agreement to create the 35th Squadron, nicknamed the Black Cat Squadron, composed of two U-2Cs in Taoyuan Airbase in northern Taiwan, at an isolated part of the airbase add something

 

The RAINBOW anti-radar modifications were not very successful, and their use ended in 1958 add something

 

After training in Texas, a group of Royal Air Force U-2 pilots arrived in Turkey in November 1958, shortly after the CIA's Detachment B from Adana provided valuable intelligence during the 1958 Lebanon crisis, which both the United States and United Kingdom were involved in add something

 

In December 1958 Khruschev boasted that a Soviet missile could deliver a 5-megaton warhead 8,000 miles add something


1959

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 add something

 

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 add something

 

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 add something

 

That year, Detachment C flew over the Chinese coast near Quemoy during the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis to see if Chinese forces were preparing to invade, and in 1959 aided CIA operations during the Tibetan uprising add something

 

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 ELINT flights along the Soviet border add something


1960

In 1960 and 1961 the first four pilots received the Air Force Cross add something

 

In 1960, CIA pilot Gary Powers was shot down while flying a U-2 over Soviet territory add something

 

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. add something

 

The Soviets developed their own overflight aircraft, variants of the Yak-25, which in addition to photographing various parts of the world through the early 1960s acted as a target for the new MiG-19 and MiG-21 interceptors to practice for the U-2 add something

 

When in 1960 the CIA realized that a pill breaking inside the cockpit would kill the pilot, it destroyed the L-pills and its Technical Services Division developed a needle poisoned with a powerful shellfish toxin and hidden in a silver dollar add something

 

Unmanned aerial vehicle - This plan became intensified when Francis Gary Powers and his "secret" U-2 were shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960

 

After a few more overflights that year, only five more would occur before the May 1960 incident because of Eisenhower's increasing cautiousness add something

 

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 United States add something

 

The British direct involvement in overflights ended after the May 1960 U-2 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 add something

 

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 add something

 

Their advice was not followed, and the weather cover story led to the disaster that followed the May 1960 U-2 loss add something

 

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 add something

 

From October 1960 Detachment G made many overflights of Cuba from Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas add something


1961

Although Lockheed in 1961 modified six CIA aircraft into the aerial refueling-capable U-2F model, permitting some Cuba missions to originate from Edwards, flights could not last for more than about 10 hours because of pilot fatigue add something

 

The expansion of satellite intelligence 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 Berlin Crisis of 1961 add something

 

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 KC-97 or from the KC-135 add something


1962

In 1962, a U-2 piloted by Major Rudolf Anderson, Jr. was shot down over Cuba by surface-to-air missiles during the Cuban missile crisis add something

 

Both the American and Taiwanese governments approved each flight, and the United States 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 Lanchou nuclear test site and air bases at Kunming add something

 

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 add something

 

A late August 1962 flight showed Soviet SA-2 SAM sites on the island; later overflights found more sites and the MiG-21 interceptor add something

 

Cuban missile crisis - In September 1962, photo interpreters from the Defense Intelligence Agency noticed that Cuban surface-to-air missile sites were arranged in a pattern similar to those used by the Soviet Union to protect its ICBM bases, leading the wary Agency to lobby for the resumption of U-2 flights over the island

 

Sino-Indian War - In late November 1962, Detachment G was deployed to Ta Khli, Thailand, to carry out overflights of the Chinese-Indian border area after Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru requested military aid following the Sino-Indian War in October-November 1962 add something


1963

In 1963, India agreed to an American request for a permanent U-2 base for Soviet and Chinese targets, offering Charbatia, although it was only briefly used and Ta Khli remained Department G's main Asian base add something

 

In 1963, the CIA started project Whale Tale to develop carrier-based U-2Gs to overcome range limitations add something

 

Two more ROC U-2s were lost in 1963 and 1964, and the Taiwanese demanded improved electronic countermeasures equipment add something


1964

Both flights occurred from U.S."Ranger" in May 1964 to observe France's development of an atomic bomb test range at Moruroa in French Polynesia add something


1966

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 add something


1967

The U-2R, first flown in 1967, is significantly larger and more capable than the original aircraft add something


1968

Detachment H's U-2s had the System XII radar detector but not the sophisticated System XIII radar jammer, because the United States Department of Defense 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 us add something

 

In 1968, the ROC U-2C/F/G fleet was replaced with the newer U-2R. However, with the coming of the Sino-Soviet split and the rapprochement 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 cameras on the U-2R while flying over international waters add something

 

The last U-2 aircraft mission over mainland China took place on 16 March 1968 add something


1969

In 1969, the larger U-2Rs were flown from the aircraft carrier add something

 

The U-2 carrier program is believed to have been halted after 1969 add something


1970

The U-2 crashed near its base at Bien Hoa. In July 1970, the 349th SRS at Bien Hoa moved to Thailand and was redesignated the 99th SRS, remaining there until March 1976 add something

 

In August 1970, two U-2Rs were deployed by NRO to cover the Israeli-Egypt conflict under the code name "EVEN STEVEN" add something


1972

During his visit to China in 1972, U.S. President Richard Nixon promised the Chinese authorities to cease all reconnaissance missions near and over China, though this was 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 add something

 

All ROC Detachment H operations ended in March 1972, the month that President Richard Nixon visited China add something


1973

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 add something


1974

The last 35th Squadron mission was flown by Sungchou "Mike" Chiu on 24 May 1974 add something


1976

In June 1976, the U-2s of the 100 SRW were transferred to the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, California, and merged with SR-71 aircraft operations there add something


1977

In 1977, a U-2 was retrofitted with an upward-looking window so that it could be used for high altitude astronomical observations of the cosmic microwave background add something


1980

Manufacturing was restarted in the 1980s to produce the TR-1, an updated and modernized design of the U-2 add something


1981

A tactical reconnaissance version, the "TR-1A", first flew in August 1981 add something


1983

Designed for standoff tactical reconnaissance in Europe, the TR-1A was structurally identical to the U-2R. The 17th Reconnaissance Wing, Royal Air Force Station Alconbury, England used operational TR-1As from 1983 until 1991 add something


1984

In 1984, during a major NATO exercise, Royal Air Force Flight Lieutenant Mike Hale intercepted a U-2 at a height of , where the aircraft had previously been considered safe from interception add something


1989

In 1989, a U-2R of 9 RW, Detachment 5, flying out of Patrick Air Force Base, Florida successfully photographed a space shuttle launch for NASA to assist in identifying the cause of tile loss during launch discovered in the initial post-Challenger missions add something

 

The last U-2 and TR-1 aircraft were delivered to the U.S. Air Force in October 1989 add something


1991

The image of a U-2 was used on the cover of the band Negativland's controversial 1991 EP titled "U2" add something


1992

In 1992 all TR-1s and U-2s were designated U-2Rs add something

 

When theStrategic Air Command was disestablished in 1992, the wing was transferred to the new Air Combat Command and redesignated the 9th Reconnaissance Wing add something


1998

The U-2 has outlasted its Mach 3 SR-71 replacement, which was retired in 1998 add something

 

On 19 November 1998, a NASA ER-2 research aircraft set a world record for altitude of in horizontal flight in the weight class add something


2001

Factors increasing the risk of illness since 2001 included longer mission durations and more cockpit activity add something

 

Since 2001, more than a dozen pilots have been reported to have suffered the effects of decompression sickness, including permanent brain damage in nine add something


2003

2003 invasion of Iraq - Another attempt at provoking the war was mentioned in a leaked memo from a meeting between George W. Bush and Tony Blair on 31 January 2003 at which Bush allegedly told Blair that "The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours


2005

A classified budget document approved by the Pentagon on 23 December 2005 called for the termination of the U-2 program no earlier than 2012, with some aircraft being retired by 2007 add something


2006

In January 2006, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced the pending retirement of the U-2 fleet as a cost cutting measure, and as part of a larger reorganization and redefinition of the U.S. Air Force's mission that includes the elimination of all but 56 B-52s and a complete reduction in the F-117 Nighthawk fleet add something


2009

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 add something

 

Oliver R Crawford - In 2009, Crawford became the oldest person to receive a high-flight in the Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady

 

Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel - In December 2009, South Korea's "JoongAng Daily" newspaper reported that the RQ-170 Sentinel had been test-flown in South Korea for the past few months and that it was expected that they would be permanently deployed in 2010 to replace Lockheed U-2 reconnaissance aircraft operating from Osan Air Base


2010

Beginning in 2010, the RQ-170 Sentinel began replacing U-2s operating from Osan Air Base, South Korea add something


2011

In 2011, the U.S. Air Force intended to replace the U-2s with RQ-4s before fiscal year 2015 add something

 

In March 2011, it was projected that the U.S.'s fleet of 32 U-2s would be operated until 2015 add something

 

Cuban missile crisis - Association of Former Intelligence Officers, August 12, 2011 which on October 14 tasked an Air Force-operated U-2 aircraft with scanning the suspected areas in Cuba, securing clear photographic evidence of medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic nuclear missiles on the ground


2012

In January 2012, it was reported that Air Force plans to end the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 program and extend the U-2 fleet in service until c add something


2013

In 2013, modifications were initiated under the Cockpit Altitude Reduction Effort , to beef up the cockpit structure add something


2014

Under political pressure, the Air Force took Block 30 Global Hawks out of service in 2014; the U-2 fleet may be retired during FY 2015 due to budget reductions add something

 

In May 2014, a U-2 flight was accused of inadvertently causing disruption in air traffic in the Western U.S. due to an apparent software glitch in ERAM add something


2015

In the House Armed Services Committee's markup of the FY 2015 budget, language was included prohibiting the use of funds to retire or store the U-2; it requested a report outlining the transition capabilities from the U-2 to the RQ-4 Block 30 in light of capability gap concerns add something

 

Breakingdefense.com, 2 February 2015 add something

 

In August 2015, the 60th-year anniversary of the U-2 program, Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works revealed they were internally developing a successor to the U-2, referred to as the UQ-2 or RQ-X, combining features from both the manned U-2 and unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawk and improving upon them add something

 

The company released a notional artist's impression of the TR-X aircraft at an Air Force Association conference in Washington on 14 September 2015 add something


2016

The RQ-4 Block 30's capabilities were planned to match the U-2's by FY 2016, the replacement effort is motivated by decreases in the RQ-4's cost per flying hour add something

 

Lockheed revealed more specifications about the TR-X at a 15 March 2016 media day, confirming the aircraft would be unmanned and air refuelable add something

 

On 20 September 2016, a TU-2S trainer crashed upon takeoff from Beale Air Force Base, California, killing one pilot and injuring the other add something


2018

In January 2018, Defense News reported that the 2018 US Air Force budget had indefinitely postponed the withdrawal from service of the U-2s add something

 

In early August 2018, NASA flew two missions to use infrared sensors to map the Mendocino Complex Fire add something