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Monday, November 29, 2010

U-2

The designation of the aircraft built by Lockheed for the Central Intelligence Agency as a high-altitude, single-engine reconnaissance aircraft. It flew for the first time in August 1955. The following year U-2s began overflights of  Soviet territory from Adana in Turkey, Lakenheath in England, and Giebelstadt in Germany, concentrating on the missile test sites at Kapustin Yar and Tyuratam. Following the destruction of a U-2 near Sverdlovsk in May 1960, and the capture of its CIA pilot, Francis Gary Powers, President Dwight D. Eisenhower banned further intrusions into Soviet airspace. Altogether two American U-2 planes were shot down, the other being a flight over Cuba in October 1962, killing the pilot, Maj. Rudolf Anderson. In addition, six Taiwanese U-2s were destroyed over the Peoples’ Republic of China between 1962 and 1969.
The  imagery captured by the U-2 overflights, processed by the National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC) and code-named IDEALIST, was considered invaluable, serving to undermine the “bomber gap” theory. It was later replaced by photographs from CORONA satellites beginning in August 1960 and from SR-71 Blackbirds in January 1964. A total of 106 U-2s were built, and it remains an effective surveillance aircraft, still in service around the globe.