Apr. 2003 to
Apr. 2009

U-2 high altitude reconnaiaissance plane, high above the earth. My brother is a U-2 pilot.

The U-2 Spy Plane


Why does my website have a page about the U-2 spy plane?

Simple question. Simple answer: my brother, Jon Huggins was a pilot in the U. S. Air Force ... a U-2 pilot.

And now he is again.

At the time I originally prepared this page, he was in the NATO/Yugoslavia conflict. After that, he returned safely, returned to Yugoslavia and returned safely again. He then left the Air Force, moved into civilian life and became a jet pilot for United Airlines.

In December 2001, he responded again to our country's needs and reentered the Air Force as a major and a U-2 pilot.

In April 2002, he completed a tour overseas supporting the armed conflict in Iraq.

This page is for him.

The U-2 is a single-seat, single-engine, high-altitude, reconnaissance aircraft. Long, (very long: 103 feet) wide, straight wings give the U-2 glider-like characteristics. It can carry a variety of sensors and cameras.

The first flight was in August 1955. It was the U-2 that photographed the Soviet missile installations in Cuba in October 14, 1962.

From time to time, my travels took me out to California, to the San Francisco area. When they did, I'd try to go up to Sacramento to Beale Air Force Base to visit my brother.

I like it best when I could arrange the trip for a weekday. The U-2s, nicknamed the Dragon Ladies, fly on weekdays. And, when the U-2s fly, chase cars help them land. The U-2 is probably the most difficult plane to land in the entire U. S. military. It has one main landing gear, in the middle of the plane. It has to land exactly straight, like landing a bicycle. The chase cars help the pilot know how far off the runway the U-2 is.

Sometimes, if everything is just right, I get the VIP treatment, including a ride in a chase car. They run Camaros at Beale. You sit out on the runway, wait for the U-2 to fly over, then accelerate down the runway behind the U-2, chasing behind it as it lands. For me, its better than all the rides at Disneyland.

Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson, a (now famous) designer at Lockheed conceived of the U-2. The first U-2, designated a U-2A flew in 1955.

Production ended in 1968 with the model known as the U-2R. The U-2R was about 40% larger than the original U-2A.

In 1980 they restarted the production line and made more. They called these the TR-1 for NATO and the eR-2 for NASA. ("TR" stands for "Tactical Reconnaissance". "eR" stands for "earth Resource".)

In 1992 all the TR-1s were redesignated U-2R.

Now, the TR-1s and U-2Rs have all been "converted" into a new configuration called the U-2S. (The eR-2 has also been "converted" but they didn't change the "name".)  The conversion delivered the first U-2S in October 1994. The conversion involved new, high-efficiency General electric F118-Ge-101 engines, an improved electrical system, a digital autopilot, including improved GPS and an auxiliary spoiler activation system.

The three trainers (U-2RT) are being converted to U-2ST. The last one should be converted in 1999.

In addition to the U-2, the pilots fly the T-38, the companion trainer. There are only four dual-seat U-2 trainers. The rest are single seat. But the T-38 is a bit different from the U-2. The T-38 flies because it has big jets. The U-2 flies because it has big wings.

The Air Force U-2s operate through the Air Combat Command with a home base at the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base. The wing also has four "forward operating sites" worldwide.

NASA flies the eR-2 from their Dryden Flight Research Center at edwards AFB in California. NASA uses the eR-2s for a wide variety of earth resources-related programs.

The U-2 and eR-2 are also used by other "customers" including Federal emergency Management Agency (FeMA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Drug enforcement Agency (DEA), various universities and many others.

Typical sorties (flights) average about 9 hours above 70,000 feet. The pilot wears a full pressurized space suit, custom made for each pilot.

There aren't many pilots who fly the U-2. There are only abks to some aviation and space posters, memorabilia, gifts and collectibles available for sale.
NB: This page is part of my affiliate participation that helps fund this site. If you would rather order products without crediting my affiliate account, I include a link for that as well. The link opens a new window.  

Air Combat CommandAir Combat Commans at Beale (01.May.2002)" width="24" height="24">Air Force Link: First upgraded U-2 arrives at Beale (01.May.2002): The first U-2S upgraded through the Reconnaissance Avionics Maintainability Program (RAMP) returned to Beale. The RAMP upgrade replaces the 1960s-vintage cockpit with equipment including three 6-by-8 inch multifunction displays, an up-front control and display unit, and an independent secondary flight display system. The entire fleet of 31 U-2S aircraft and four two-cockpit trainers will be modified by 2007. (Includes graphics and link to high resolution graphic.) [See also Lockheed Martin's press release and Aviation Week's stories on this topic. Air Force Link story includes best photos. Photos also available on my U-2 Graphic page" border="0" alt="Air Force News (23.Dec.1998), "U-2 Pilot Shatters World Record" width="24" height="24">Air Force News (23.Dec.1998) , "U-2 Pilot Shatters World Record: How a U-2 pilot shattered a 19-year old world record Dec. 12 when he flew his U-2 and payload to an altitude of more than 12 and a half miles above the earth's surface (something done routinely every day).  (30.Apr.2002) , "Better Cockpit, Avionics On Tap For Beale's U-2 Pilots": Reconnaissance Wing hope to start formal upgrade training next month in the newest version of the U-2S reconnaissance aircraft, which boasts a redesigned cockpit and better avionics. (Includes graphic.) [See also Lockheed Martin's press release and Air Force Link stories on this topic. Air Force Link story includes best photos. Photos also available on my U-2 Graphic pages, above.]  Internet Archive Wayback Machine has archived the page so I can link to the copy there.

Beale AFB - Non-U-2

This section contains peripheral information and news about Beale AFB that is not related to the U-2 program. See also above for other information about Beale, its history, who it is named for, etc.

Air Combat Command News Service: Beale People Make 9-11 Quilt (07.Jun.2002)Air Combat Command News Service: Beale People Make 9-11 Quilt (07.Jun.2002) 


Operation Overflight: A Memoir of the U-2 Incident

Operation Overflight: A Memoir of the U-2 Incident (paperback): In March, 2002, Amazon.com showed that the paperbac-2a/amazon/lockheed_martins_skunk_works_150.jpg" alt="Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works" width="110" height="150">

Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works: This edition has been updated and revised with the total cooperation of Lockheed's Advanced Development Company. It strives to be a history of the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works aircraft design and production facility. The book includes excerpts from "logs" kept by Clarence. L "Kelly" Johnson, the founder and former director of the Skunk Works. It provides the official histories of the U-2, A-12, D-21, SR-71, F-117, P-80, RB-69, 00%">

Dark Eagles

Dark eagles: This book presents a history of the U.S. Effort to develop secret aircraft, also called "black aircraft". The history begins with the first American jet, the World War II Bell P-59 and continues through the U-2, SR-71 Blackbird, and the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter. It also discuses theVerdana,Geneva,Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif">: Glenn Chapman worked as a nephographics specialist on the U-2 with the 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Laughlin AFB, Texas and Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ from 1958 to 1966. Part 1 discusses military intelligence in general, how it began and how far it has come and describes how the U-2 came to be in the first place. Part 2 describes the author's experiences with the U-2 during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis from his vantage point. He took part in the OL-X detachment at McCoy AFB, Florida during that "thirteen days of madness." Part 3 is full of stories about the U-2, some of the people the author knew at the time, and a little about the relationship between the SR-71 and U-2. It is the first book written directly by, rather than an "as told to" version, someone involved with the program. It is also the first book written by an enlisted man from the enlisted man's point of view. 

  A U2 flies over Beale Air Force Base. I was fortunate enough to chase U2s down the runway here and also to fly a small training plane (not a U2) out of Beale.


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This page created:
Wed, 16.Aug.2000

Last updated:
16:20, Sat, 10.May.2014

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