The U-2 provides continuous day or night, high-altitude, all-weather, stand-off
surveillance of an area in direct support of U.S. and allied ground and air forces.
It provides critical intelligence to decision makers through all phases of conflict,
including peacetime indications and warnings, crises, low-intensity conflict and
The U-2 is a single-seat,
single-engine, high-altitude, reconnaissance aircraft. Long, wide, straight wings
give the U-2 glider-like characteristics. It can carry a variety of sensors and
cameras, is an extremely reliable reconnaissance aircraft, and enjoys a high mission
Because of its high altitude mission, the pilot must
wear a full pressure suit. The U-2 is capable of collecting multi-sensor photo,
electro-optic, infrared and radar imagery, as well as performing other types of
reconnaissance functions. However, the aircraft can be a difficult aircraft to
fly due to its unusual landing characteristics.
The aircraft is being
upgraded with a lighter engine (General Electric F-118-101) that burns less fuel,
cuts weight and increases power. The entire fleet should be reengined by 1998.
Other upgrades are to the sensors and adding the Global Positioning System that
will superimpose geo-coordinates directly on collected images.
Current models are derived from the original version that made its first
flight in August 1955. On Oct. 14, 1962, it was the U-2 that photographed the
Soviet military installing offensive missiles in Cuba.
The U-2R, first
flown in 1967, is significantly larger and more capable than the original aircraft.
A tactical reconnaissance version, the TR-1A, first flew in August 1981 and was
delivered to the Air Force the next month.
Designed for stand-off tactical
reconnaissance in Europe, the TR-1 was structurally identical to the U-2R. Operational
TR-1A's were used by the 17th Reconnaissance Wing, Royal Air Force Station Alconbury,
England, starting in February 1983. The last U-2 and TR-1 aircraft were delivered
to the Air Force in October 1989. In 1992 all TR-1s and U-2s were redesignated U-2R. Current U-2R models are being reengined and will be designated as a U-2S/ST.
The Air Force accepted the first U-2S in October, 1994.
the U-2 also has provided photographs to the Federal Emergency Management Agency
in support of disaster relief.
U-2s are based at Beale Air Force Base,
Calif. and support national and tactical requirements from four operational detachments
located throughout the world. U-2R/U-2S crew members are trained at Beale using
three U-2ST aircraft. The last R model trainer will be converted to an S model
trainer in 1999.
Contractor: Lockheed Aircraft Corp.
Power Plant: One Pratt & Whitney J75-P-13B engine; one General Electric
Thrust: 17,000 pounds (7,650 kilograms)
Length: 63 feet (19.2 meters)
Height: 16 feet (4.8 meters)
103 feet (30.9 meters)
Speed: 475+ miles per hour (Mach 0.58)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 40,000 pounds (18,000 kilograms).
7,000 miles (6,090 nautical miles)
Ceiling: Above 70,000 feet (21,212
Crew: One (two in trainer models)
Date Deployed: U-2,
August 1955; U-2R, 1967; U-2S, October 1994
Inventory: Active force, 36 (4 trainers); Reserve, 0; ANG, 0
Air Combat Command, Public Affairs Office; 115 Thompson
St., Suite 211; Langley AFB, VA 23665-1987; DSN 574-5014 or (804) 764-5014; e-mail:
by MSgt Rose Reynolds