Friday, April 25, 2014

The Friday Flyby - 25 April

Last week the SR-71, this week the U-2/TR-1. Both were products of the Lockheed "Skunk Works" both designed by Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, a true American genius.

So Sarge, what's up with all this black aircraft, spy plane stuff?

Well, while pondering what to do for this week's Flyby I saw an article, well multiple versions of the same article really. All pretty much had the same title, "Air Force to retire the U-2", all pretty much 
read the same. For budget reasons, the Air Force wants to get rid of the U-2 and the A-10.

I get more ashamed of "my" Air Force everyday. You bozos want to cut something, how about ceasing all spending on that flying LCS, otherwise known as the F-35?

Better yet, fire everyone above the rank of colonel, reduce the Air Force to a single wing of drones and a single squadron of F-35s. A single squadron of the latter will be about all we can afford.

Then my old service can revert to its historical antecedent, the Aeronautical Section of the Signal Corps. You know, return it to being a part of the Army. Hell, toss in a couple of tethered observation balloons and a crate of carrier pigeons and we'll really be going "Old School."

Am I bitter? Am I angry?

I dunno, should I be?

Well, enough ranting and raving. Let's take a look at the bird in question. While she ain't fast, she does fly awfully high. While not exactly sexy, she does look ominous.
The Lockheed U-2, nicknamed "Dragon Lady", is a single-engine, ultra-high altitude reconnaissance aircraft operated by the United States Air Force (USAF) and previously flown by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It provides day and night, very high-altitude (70,000 feet / 21,000 m), all-weather intelligence gathering. The U-2 has also been used for electronic sensor research, satellite calibration, and communications purposes.

The U-2 has been prominently featured in several events during the Cold War, at stages of which U-2s commonly overflew the Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China, North Vietnam, and Cuba. In 1960, CIA pilot Gary Powers was shot down while flying a U-2 over Soviet territory. 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.

The U-2 has remained in service since the end of the Cold War and is one of several aircraft types that have been operated by the USAF in excess of 50 years. It has participated in conflicts such as Afghanistan and Iraq, and supported several multinational NATO operations. The role of the U-2 is increasingly performed by alternative platforms, such as surveillance satellites, unmanned reconnaissance drones such as the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk, and conventional aircraft. - Wikipedia
Wikipedia's article on the U-2 is extensive. Lot's of history there with this bird. Francis Gary Powers, the Cuban Missile Crisis and all the outfits which have operated this unique aircraft. I recommend it to you!

TR-1/U-2R Plan View
Courtesy of  bagera3005

U-2R Cutaway Drawing

She carries just about everything you need in a reconnaissance aircraft.

That impressive wingspan lets her stay aloft for a long time.

The U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, piloted by Maj. Alan Zwick, lifts off on its record-setting flight. (Back in 1998.)
Fifty-eight minutes into his flight, Zwick and the aircraft were at just over 66,800 feet, roughly 38,287 feet higher than the previous record
of 28,513 feet, set by a Czechoslovakian pilot in 1979. (Photo by Senior Airman Johnny Saldivar)
U-2 pilots (like SR-71 pilots) dress like astronauts.

Like all aircraft, sometimes a little loving care is needed to "keep 'em flying."

Looks rather submarine-like from this angle.

Another U-2 Pilot, Note the Patch

Trainer, the TU-2S
Note the piggie-back cockpit.

Over the misty mountains.

Kelly Johnson and two of his creations.

At Fairford, December 2009

The Lockheed U-2/TR-1, coming soon, to a museum near you.


H/T to fellow Lexican Mike K for the idea!


  1. As always, Friday just got a little bit better!

  2. May be a war story, but a late friend talked about supporting U-2s in Alaska, and riding in the back of a pickup holding up wing tips. Said he could still feel the cold.

    1. I could see that happening. Not that far fetched.

  3. Rumor has it that at altitude, the difference between Vne (wings rip off speed) and Stall speed is in the single digits. Makes for some precision flying.

  4. I agree with Juvat. Friday just got better. Great way to end the week!!!

  5. I had a real life U-2 experience in 1962.
    We'd just completed Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization and were headed for out initial shakedown.
    About the time we cleared the sea buoy at Pearl and secured from the Special Sea & Anchor Detail a large dark object appeared on the starboard quarter and passed astern, landing at Hickam.
    We were immediately told to notify our department heads if anyone had taken any photographs and to not mention to anyone what we had seen.

    1. Okay Skip. You told someone what you saw (that would be me). I'll bet you took pictures and didn't tell your department head either.

      Pretty cool story though.

    2. Nope pictures.
      But then I wasn't exactly where I was supposed to be, either.

    3. Hahaha.

      (I think we've all "been there, done that.")

  6. They used to stage U-2s out of Laughlin in Del Rio in the early 60s but they were long gone by the time I got there in '66. But the hangers with their extra-wide doors were still there, lol.

    1. Cool, I didn't know that. And yeah, those hangar doors would have to be very wide, wouldn't they?


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