55 Years of the U-2

Awesome video of the Lockheed U-2:

First flew in 1955, and entered service in 1957. Probably the most famous incident involving the plane was when Francis Gary Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960 by an SA-2 Surface-to-Air missile. Lesser known is a shootdown by the same missile over Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The CIA no longer operates the U-2, but the Air Force still does. They were intended to be largely replaced by the unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawk, but there’s talk of canceling that program due to costs. It seems it may be cheaper to extend the life of the U-2 another 20 years to 2023, at which point the U-2 program is pushing 70. It’ll be up there with the B-52 Stratofortress, which entered service about the same time, and could quite possibly end up seeing 100 years of service.

10 thoughts on “55 Years of the U-2”

  1. Both the U-2 and B-52 are up there with their nemesis, the Tupolev Tu-95, which first flew in 1952 and entered service in 1956. The Tu-95 is scheduled to remain in service until 2040.

    They don’t build them like that any more.

    1. They didn’t build them like that back then, either: The U-2 was designed and built as essentially a ‘disposable’ airplane, with airframe lifetime sacrificed in the name of lighter weight for better performance.

  2. Just cuz it’s old design doesn’t mean it’s obsolete.
    Just look at the 1911, over 100 years and still serving to some extent.

    1. No kidding. Even more amazing is that we can’t seem to beat it today. The reason the Global Hawk is facing cancellation is that, even though the U2 might be 55 year old technology, it still gets the job done at a lower overall cost.

    2. Don’t knock slide rules. They do the math just as well as a computer, and as an added bonus, they don’t require electricity.

  3. When I was a spy in the USAF in WGER, U-2s carried the radio equipment we used on the ground through an uplink. It would enter from the North Sea, fly along the Iron Curtain down to Bavaria and back, several times, for hours. The pilots described the flights as boredom finished by the butt-clenching terror of landing that glorified glider. They even had a microwave oven in the plane to cook lunch.

  4. I’d have to do a search to confirm, but I recall an article published by the air force about a B-52 airframe that had been flown by grandfather, father, and son.

  5. My old IP from pilot training flew the U-2. It always amazed me that a college football pulling guard could fit in in the cockpit of one.

    Plus, what every pilot dreams of: 10 to 12 hour missions, flying in a space suit, and either a catheter or a diaper, your choice.

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