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 about 100 worldwide. The application process discourages all but the most qualified from even applying. Of those who apply, less than 40% eventually become U-2 pilots.
Aviation and Space:
Links to some aviation and space posters, memorabilia, gifts and collectibles available for sale.
Air Force, CIA Celebrate U-2 Spy Plane History, But Problems Loom: David Atkinson writes this story, apparently referencing the 17.Sep.1998 conference about the U-2. In addition to noting the successes, he notes problems of staffing and trainer readiness. ««»»
Air Force Link: Lockheed Martin Demonstrates New U-2 Cockpit Displays (02.Mar.2001): Lockheed Martin's U-2 Reconnaissance Avionics Maintainability Program (RAMP) demonstrates a cockpit modernization upgrade. (Includes graphics and link to high resolution graphic.) [See also Lockheed Martin press release on this topic. Photos also available on my U-2 Graphic pages, above.] ««»»
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 pages, above.] ««»»
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). ««»»
Appeal-Democrat (29.Apr.2000) , "Son Set to Fly Like His Father": This story by the Marysville Appeal-Democrat describes the preparations of Francis Gary Powers, Jr. for a flight U-2 on 01.May.2000 in a special ceremony at Beale AFB to honor his father. ««»»
Appeal-Democrat (02.May.2000) , "Flight Brings Son Closer to Father": This story by the Marysville Appeal-Democrat describes the ceremony at Beale AFT on 01.May.2000 to honor Francis Gary Powers 40 years after his famous mission. Powers' son, Francis Gary Powers, Jr., attended the ceremony. ««»»
Avalon Project at Yale: The U-2 Incident: The Avalon Project at the Yale Law School collects and displays documents in law, history and diplomacy. This page has transcripts of some of the official communications regarding the Gary Powers U-2 incident. ««»»
Aviation Week's AviationNow.com (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.] ««»»
Beale Air Force Base: Home page for my brother's Air Force base, and home to 9th Reconnaissance Wing and the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron. ««»»(Notice: This link used to be to www.beale.af.mil. Now that page includes links to a restricted military only site and a public site. The public site, linked here, appears to have been gutted and is currently a disappointing visit.)
Beale Air Force Base: 99th Recon. Squadron Home Page: A great page and an excellent place to start. Lots of great U-2 pictures, information on the space suits and the program. ««»» (Notice: This page is no longer accessible. It has either been removed or it has been relocated to the restricted military only site.)
Beale AFB Stan/eval Home Page: Looks like Stanley and evelyn have an interest in U-2s as well. They have this site out at Beale that has some great info. Be sure to check out the Collier Trophy, the U-2 Aviation Records. Also, check out all the great abbreviations, acronyms and mil-speak: Form 847, MQF, FCIF, HHQ, SEB, RAMP, CWG . . . and that is just the opening page. If you explore just a little bit further you can learn about PVIDT, CDDD, MFD, UFCD, IFF and more. Joking aside, you can find all sorts of interesting info through this page. Check it out. ««»» (Notice: This page is no longer accessible. It has either been removed or it has been relocated to the restricted military only site.)
Christian Science Monitor (12.Nov.1997) , "U-2 Planes - Veterans at Peering Behind enemy Lines": Short article about the U-2. ««»»
CIA and the U-2 Program: The CIA's declassified internal history of the U-2 program. Written by Gregory W. Pedlow and Donald e. Welzenbach for the CIA History Staff in the 1980s, was published in 1992 under the title The Central Intelligence Agency and Overhead Reconnaissance: The U-2 and OXCART Programs, 1954 - 1974. This volume tells much of the U-2 story in a clear and engaging manner, providing a fuller context for understanding some of the most dangerous moments of the Cold War. ««»»
CIA's Role in the Study of UFOs, 1947-90: Using CIA records, this study traces CIA interest and involvement in the UFO controversy from the late 1940s to 1990. It includes a brief discussion of the role of the U-2 in such sightings. ««»»
The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962: Presenting the Photographic evidence Abroad: This describes the experiences of Sherman Kent and other senior CIA officers in briefing the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Canada on the reasons behind US actions in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Of peripheral discussion to the U-2, it discuses the relationship between intelligence and policy, how briefings are done, who does them, why they are (or are not) important, as well as the credibility of sources. It was originally classified Secret and published by Studies in Intelligence in Spring 1972. ««»»
Dragon Lady Meets the Challenge -The U-2 in Desert Storm: By Coy F. Cross II, 9th Reconnaissance Wing. ««»»
Federation of American Scientists: Senior Year U-2 / TR-1: Part of the FAS Intelligence Resource Program, this extensive site is the source for much of the information and many of the graphics on my site. ««»»
Fletcher Prouty Reference Site: This site features the work of Fletcher Prouty. He spent 9 of his 23 year military career in the Pentagon (1955-1964). In 1955 he was appointed the first "Focal Point" officer between the CIA and the Air Force for Clandestine Operations. In this capacity Col. Prouty would be at the nerve center of the Military-Industrial Complex at a time unequalled in American History. He has written on these subjects, about the JFK assassination, the Cold War period, and Vietnamese warfare, and the existence of a "Secret Team". He backs up his his work with seldom seen or mentioned official documents - some never before released. ««»»
Francis Gary Powers: One Man, Two Countries and the Cold War: A short article on the Military.com site about the Gary Powers U-2 incident. It also mentions the medals awarded posthumously on 01.May.2000 in a special ceremony at Beale AFB ««»»
Francis Gary Powers: The True Story of the U-2 Spy Incident: Information about the movie, based on the book Operation Overflight. Lee Majors played Gary Powers. ««»»
Francis Gary Powers: The True Story of the U-2 Spy Incident: The Internet Movie Database page about the movie. ««»»
General de Gaulle In Action: This discussion of the May 1960 Four-Power Meeting in Paris includes some references to the U-2 and the downing of Francis Gary Powers and the role it played in that converence. ««»»
Lockheed Martin: Press Release: U-2S/eR-2 Aircraft Awarded NAA's 1998 Collier Trophy (10.Feb.1998): The National Aeronautic Association awarded the Robert J. Collier Trophy recognizing the top aeronautical achievement in the United States for 1998 to the U-2S/eR-2. ««»»
Lockheed Martin: Press Release: Lockheed Martin U-2 Demonstrates New Cockpit Displays (01.Mar.2001): Lockheed Martin's U-2 Reconnaissance Avionics Maintainability Program (RAMP) demonstrates a cockpit modernization upgrade. (Includes graphic and link to 9 MB high-res TIF graphic.) [See also Air Force Link story on this topic. Photos also available on my U-2 Graphic pages, above.] ««»»
Lockheed Martin: Press Release: Lockheed Martin Delivers First Upgraded U-2S Reconnaissance Aircraft (15.Apr.2002): Lockheed Martin delivered the first U-2S reconnaissance aircraft equipped with the new Reconnaissance Avionics Maintainability Program (RAMP) cockpit displays and controls. (Includes graphics; link to high-res graphic is "disabled".) [See also Air Force Link and Aviation Week's stories on this topic. Air Force Link story includes best photos. Photos also available on my U-2 Graphic pages, above.] ««»»
Lockheed Martin Skunkworks: Now this is Internet irony. The Skunkworks with a website! Complete with a products and services page and employment opportunities. Great graphics and lots of excellent information. ««»»
Notional Ramp Cockpit: One example of the kind of page you can find if you explore that great page from Stanley and evelyn (the prior link). This one shows a new (proposed?) U-2 cockpit. ««»» (Notice: This page is no longer accessible. It has either been removed or it has been relocated to the restricted military only site.)
Powers to Posthumously Receive POW Medal: The press release from the Cold War Museum announcing that Francis Gary Powers will posthumously receive medals at a special ceremony 01.May.2000 at Beale AFB. Powers' family accepted a Distinguished Flying Cross, Department of Defense Prisoner of War Medal and National Defense Service Medal on his behalf. The press release also notes that declassified debriefing transcripts clear up the confusion and speculation about what caused the U-2 incident. ««»»
The Summit Conference of 1960: An Intelligence Officer's View: Sherman Kent's account of how Khrushchev torpedoed the 1960 Paris Summit Conference. Includes some discussion of the U-2. This publication was originally classified Secret and published in a 1972 special edition of Studies in Intelligence. ««»»
"Different Fate for the U-2":
Letter by Stephen I. Schwartz, Director, U.S. Nuclear Weapons Cost Study Project, Foreign Policy Studies, explaining that the Power U-2 was not shot down.
U-2 Program: A Russian Officer Remembers: This article on the CIA website was excerpted from a longer study written by retired Soviet Colonel Alexander Orlov. He spent most of his 46-year military career with the former USSR's Air Defense Forces and personally participated in many of the U-2 events described. ««»»
U. S. Air Force A-10/OA-10 Thunderbolt II Fact Sheet: So what does the A-10 have to do with the U-2. Nothing. Except that my brother introduced me to the A-10 and I think it's kinda cool. ««»»
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 Force Link: Air Force picks preferred site for Global Hawk (19.Jan.2001): The Air Force announced Beale Air Force Base, Calif., as its preferred location for the first main operating base of the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle. ««»»
SR-71 & U-2 Webring Controls
I am an "affiliate" of Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com. Clicking on Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com links on this page will credit my affiliate account. Purchases as a result of such clicks may result in payments to me. In accordance with my Affiliate Programs Policy, whenever I provide a link to an affiliate program that pays me, I attempt to also provide an alternate link which omits the referral information. These alternate links will not result in payment to me. If you object to affiliate programs, you can use these alternate links. If you would prefer to go to Amazon.com without crediting my affiliate account, click here. If you would prefer to go to Barnes&Noble.com without crediting my affiliate account, click here.
This page created: