Today we present to our readers an aircraft named Lockheed U-2 which has also been nicknamed as Dragon lady. This is a single jet engine aircraft that could operate at ultra-high altitude for reconnaissance missions and was operated by both USAF (United States Air Force) and CIA.
The aircraft had the ability to operate at both night and day time at high altitudes of 70000 feet as an all-weather aircraft for intelligence gathering.
The prospect for developing the U-2 Dragon Lady was presented by the Lockheed Corporation back in 1953 and it was not until 1954 that I was approved. The aircraft was developed shortly after its approval and took its first flight back in 1955. It served the US military in its spy missions for intelligence gathering during the following main conflicts.
- Cold War with the Soviet Union
Back in 1960, the CIA’s U-2 pilot Gary Powers was shot in the very same aircraft when it was hit by a surface-to-air missile while flying over the Soviet Union. Another major loss of the USAF pilot was for the Major Rudolf Anderson Jr. whose Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady was shot down back in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
In addition to Cold War, the Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady has also taken part extensively in several other post-Cold War disputes prominently in Iraq and Afghanistan along with serving the NATO for their multinational operations. The Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady has been sued for some of the following purposes as well.
- Electronic Sensor Research
- Satellite Calibration
- Scientific research
- Communication Roles
The Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady happens to be among a few of the aircraft that have served the USAF for nearly or more than 50 years such as the Boeing KC-135 and the Boeing B-52. As for the following newer models of the Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady, they entered the service back in the 1980s.
As for the model U-2S, it received its technical upgrades back in 2012.
For our readers today, we have gathered a bunch of amazing facts about the Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady; The Spy Plane.
A gap that cannot be filled even today:-
The Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady has been used by the USAF for a little over 60 years for their ultrahigh altitude reconnaissance missions. The reason for the Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady to have served for such a long period of time in the Air Force was because this single pilot manned aircraft had the astounding ability of carrying a heavy payload of sensors as well as other equipment to provide its strategic commanders with a near accurate display of the enemy’s battle space.
While many of the unmanned aerial aircraft and satellites have now taken over the reconnaissance role of the Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady, none have been able to fill the gap left behind it.
Advantage U-2 held over Satellites:-
Nowadays the satellites do have the ability to perform detailed surveillance spanning across the entire electromagnetic spectrum. Still, these satellites have one major flaw and that is that each of them is bound by their orbit in which they rotate around the planet. With this problem, there have been a few times that the satellites have not been positioned strategically by their command center for detailed information.
The advantage that Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady held over the satellites of today was that it could directly be deployed in the area where the operations were carried along with all the sensors needed for the reconnaissance at a high altitude and then gather information to deliver it back to the command center. This made the Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady an invaluable asset of war when conducting sensitive operations.
Could really do some heavy lifting:-
There are still some Lockheed U-2 Dragon Ladies in possession of the USAF and CIA and they are easily able to lift a payload of sensors and other such equipment of nearly 5000 pounds in weight in the air. As for its competing aircraft, the Boeing Phantom Eye, it is only able to lift 250 pounds worth of payload.
With Phantom Eye and other such UAVs are able to stay longer in the air due to them being manned remotely; Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady can lift heavier equipment for bringing more reliable and accurate information. Among the list of various sensors that Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady can haul, one is named the ‘Tal Dagger”. This sensor can easily neb deployed at the back of the aircraft and then be sued for collection of information.
The Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady has an average range of 7000 miles thus making it one of the reliable aircraft for conducting a surveillance mission that spanned for multiple areas of a single operation. This made the ground analysts to have the latest information. The range of the Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady was so astounding that it was able to complete one back and forth trip of the entire continental United States before it needed a refuel. For an aircraft that on average operated at an altitude of 60000 feet this was a surprising feat.
Upgrades and Changes:-
Due to the Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady being an invaluable strategic asset for the US military, no other aircraft has come close to being its real successor. Due to this very reason, the U0-2 underwent a major modernization program started back in 1994. The upgraded primarily included two of the following.
- Changing the avionics deck
- Replacement of the previous engine with the new and powerful General Electric F118-101 engine
For those of you who are curious about the power of this new engine, it is the same one that is used in the famed B-2 Spirit. After undergoing this modernization, the new price tag for the fleet of Lockheed U-2 Dragon Ladies comprised of nearly 50 of them reached nearly 1.7 billion dollars.
The Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady came as a massive opportunity for the scientific community with its ability to operate at high-altitudes of nearly 70000 feet with a range of 7000 miles.
One model of U-2 now named as ER-2 has been outfitted with various scientific equipment and helps for following purposes.
- Observing the ocean
- Mapping of the celestial bodies
It has proved an important asset in the regard of collecting data as well.