Progress came at a heavy price. The first SR-71 loss occurred on 25 January 1966, when Bill Weaver and his test engineer Jim /.waver took off from Edwards in SR – 71 A ‘952. After in-flight refuelling, ‘Dutch 64’ climbed back to cruising altitude. While in a 15-degree right back turn, manually controlling the right forward bypass doors at Mach 3.17 and between 77-78,000ft, Weaver experi­
enced a right inlet unstart. Bank angle immediately increased from 35 to 60 degrees and the aircraft entered a pitch-up that exceeded the restorative authority of the flight controls and SAS. The aircraft disintegrated, but miraculously Weaver survived; unfortunately Jim Zwayer was killed in the incident.

The SR-71 prototype was written off on 10 January 1967, during an anti-skid brake system evaluation at Edwards AFB, the Lockheed test pilot Art Peterson escaped with a cracked disc in his back. Three months later, on 13 April, Beale lost SR-71A ‘966 flown by Capts Earle Boone and RSO Butch Sheffield follow ing a stall and pitch-up. Both men safely ejected as ‘966 made its

Above Once on the boom, the pilot formates with the tanker, whilst the boom operator maintains contact and the tanker’s co-pilot supervises the fuel off-load. (Paul Crickmore)

Top SR-7ls refuelled from both КС-135 and КС-10 Tankers.

(Lockheed Martin)

Above right Once disconnected from the boom, the SR-71 side­slips clear of the tanker, engages both ‘burners’ and accelerates away. (Paul Crickmore)

grave not far from that of Bill Weaver’s aircraft, in Northern New Mexico.

On the night of 25 October 1967, Maj Roy St Martin and Capt John Carnochan were living a night sortie in aircraft ‘965. As Roy cased the aircraft into the descent profile over Nevada, the gyro-stabilised reference platform for the ANS drifted without a failure warning. With no visual horizon for external reference, the aircraft rolled over, the nose fell far below a safe descent angle and plunged through 60,000ft. Sensing something was wrong, Roy glanced at the standby artificial horizon and was alarmed to sec it indicate a ‘screaming dive and roll-over toward inverted flight’. He attempted a ‘recovery from



LossesLossesAbove Depending upon time and fuel remaining, a returning aircraft might shoot a few approaches before recovery. Here ex-Thunderbirds pilot Maj Jim Jiggens demonstrates the more nimble side of 17960. (Paul Crickmore)

unusual positions manoeuvre’, and managed to roll the wings level, hut roaring through 40,000ft, well above the speed from which level flight could be achieved, both men ejected. The RSO went first, and as Roy ejected he heard the warning horn that signalled that the aircraft had descended below 10,000ft! Aircraft 965 plunged into the ground near Lovelock, Nevada like a meteorite. Luckily both men survived without permanent injuries and following an accident board of investigation several instrumentation changes were implemented on the fleet, together with an amended training program containing less night flying until crews had accumulated more daytime experience in the SR-71.

As mentioned earlier, with both the Air Force and Agency operating similar aircraft in the same role, a Bureau of the Budget (BoB) memo, dated November 1965, questioned such a requirement. Since the SR-71 was not scheduled to become operational until September 1968, the SECDEF rightly declined to consider any cut­backs. In July 1966, BoB officials proposed that a tri-agency study be set up again to establish ways of reducing the cost of both programs. After the study was completed, a meeting was convened on 12 December 1966 and a vote taken on available options. Three out of four votes cast were in favour of the recommendation to ‘terminate the Oxcart fleet in January 1968 (assuming an operational readiness date of September 1967 for the SR – 71) and assign all missions to the SR-71 fleet’. The BoB memorandum was transmitted to President Johnson on 16 December, despite protestations from the CIA’s Richard I lelms, who was the sole dissenting voice in the t ote. Twelve days later, Johnson accepted the BoB’s recom­mendations and directed that the Oxcart programme be terminated by 1 January 1968. In the event, the Oxcart run-down lagged, but the original decision to terminate

Middle and above Normal approach speed (dependent upon weight, ambient air temperature etc) is 175 kts with ten degrees of nose up pitch. Final flare further increases alpha – nose up pitch and speed reduces to 155 kts for touch down. A strong ground effect, produced by the delta wing, cushions landings. (Paul Crickmore)

the program was reaffirmed on 16 May 1968 and the first Kadena-based A-12 began its flight back to the States on 7 June.

Flight Test

25 March 1991 saw the completion of a move for F-117 flight test operations from Area 51 to Palmdale. Activity from the new base continued at a brisk pace with Aircraft ’831, flown by Lt Col Chris Seat, completing Det. S’s first flight from Palmdale the day before. However, the first Senior Trend test sortie from Palmdale was a weapons evaluations flight, flown in Aircraft ’784 by Jim Thomas on 23 April 1992.

On the 23 October 1991, a low observability communi­cations study was authorised to identify methods of maintaining communications with an F-117 once it had ‘stealthed-up’ and retracted all its antennas. The study was completed in February 1992, and on 31 August that same year, Jim Thomas flew Aircraft ’783 on its first low observability antenna evaluation sortie. The test program lasted for two months, during which rime the ‘stealthy antenna’, located on the aircraft’s underside, was thoroughly evaluated. Following submission of a final report on 13 November 1992, the go-ahead for full scale development of the system was received on 12 May 1993; work commenced four months later, on 16 September, to upgrade the fleet.

Above left On 8 July 1992, Tonopah was deactivated and the 37th moved its F-l 17s to Holloman AFB, New Mexico. (USAF)

Above With the move from Tonopah to Holloman, came a redesignation and the 37th FW became the 49th FW. Aircraft ‘816 of the 7th FS is seen overflying the F-117 barns at Holloman. (USAF)

Below Members of the 9th FS, together with their 18 F-l 17s, form-up behind their boss at that time, Lt Col Greg Feest. (Col Greg Feest)

On 10 October 1994, The Ring Laser Gyro Navigation Improvement Program (RNIP), commenced. Initially designed to evaluate the proposed replacement of SPN – GEANS by the Honeywell H-423 Ring Laser Gyro, the program was subsequently broadened (based on earlier successes achieved by the low observability communica­tion antenna program), to include the addition of a Global Positioning System (GPS). A ‘dry bay’ was creat­ed, by forming a recess in the fuselage fuel tank, on the upper surface of Aircraft ‘784. Into this was located a stealthy antenna, capable of receiving the relevant satellite generated data. The first RNIP flight occurred on 12 December 1994, and the enhanced accuracy was immedi­ately apparent. This improvement package was incorporated into the entire F-l 17 fleet. Other benefits offered by the antenna were also exploited, giving rise, in December 1997, to the IRRCA, or Integrated real-time information into the cockpit/Real-time information out of the cockpit, for Combat Aircraft flight test project. Now there’s an acronym to test your friends with! By 30 June 1998, the first phase of the program, "real-time informa­tion into the cockpit’ had been successfully demonstrated. Phase two, ‘real-time information out of the cockpit’ began in 1999.

At the heart of IRRCA is the integration of a real-time symmetric multiprocesser, facilitating 1.2 billion instruc­tions per second. As the F-117A receives threat updates from satellite broadcasts, a moving map displays new threats and the processor automatically evaluates the situ­ation. Should analysis of the threat determine that the aircraft is in jeopardy, the processor re-plans the route and display’s the option on a new colour liquid crystal diode multi-function display. Decision criteria used in the

Above Another mission begins as this extraordinary geometric study prepares to taxi from its barn. (USAF)

Right An AT-38B of the 7th FS on business at Palmdale. Note the three F-117s on the tail-band. (Paul Crickmore)

Below right F-l 17 test pilot Jim ‘JB’ Brown of the 410th Flight Test Squadron, based at Palmdale, readies 784 for another IRRCA test flight. (Paul Crickmore)

proposed re-route includes threat exposure, flying time and landing fuel. The pilot can then accept or reject the proposed option. In addition to mission information, text and images also update the pilot on key events and weather. Evaluations carried out by the 410 Test Squadron at Palmdale indicate that the F-117A is capable of reacting to mission updates or target changes and pop­up threats while still remaining in a stealth configuration.

In early July 1998, Jim ‘JB’ Brown, lead IRRCA test pilot, flew a simulated combat mission in the dedicated testbed, aircraft ’784. During the course of the sortie, a geostationary satellite transmitted a series of encrypted messages to the aircraft via its low-observable communi­cations antenna. These messages included threat updates, mission updates, text information and alternative target imagery. Mission changes provided information for the real-time symmetric multi-processor to re-plan the mission to an alternative target. This was followed by a text message and photos of the alternative target, which enabled ‘JB’ to verify the processor’s planning results and study target details prior to acquisition and attack.

Other Evaluations

Over the years other parties have evaluated the F-117A’s capabilities. The first of these being the United States Navy. Two Navy pilots flew the aircraft on eight occa­sions, during each flight they were chased by an instructor pilot in a T-38. Details of their flight log show that this was a serious evaluation:










1.3 hours





1.4 hours





1.6 hours





1.6 hours





1.3 hours





1.3 hours





1.5 hours





1.4 hours


11.4 hours

In conclusion of the trials, Lt Cmdr Kenny Linn recalls: “We conducted a thorough performance review, and eval­uated the F-117A for suitability in the carrier environment. Unremarkably, it was not suitable at that time for CV use, although it had quite nice handling characteristics in the pattern, landing speeds were too high, and the sink rate limitations were too low. The F – 117A had not been built as a CV aircraft, and was not going to turn into one overnight!”

Following the collapse of European Communism, few countries were better placed to successfully complete the transition into a free market economy and democracy than Yugoslavia. However, nationalism, spurred on by the Milosevic regime have conspired to drag the region into ‘a new dark age’. The planning and implementation by

Serbia of ‘Operation Horeshoe’ – the systematic ‘ethnic cleansing – deportation and genocide – of the Kosovar Albanians, haas once again taken ships and aircraft of NATO to war. At approximately 20:38 (local) on Saturday, 27 March 1999, F-117A, ‘806, of the 8th FS, flown by Major Dale Zclco, crashed forty miles from Belgrade whilst participating in Operation Allied Force. Although speculation surrounding the loss of this aircraft is rife, nothing has been officially released at the time of writing, other than the fact that Zelco was safely extract­ed from the area bv a combat rescue team.

below Stealth technology is not something reserved solely for military aircraft: witness the Skunk Work’s Sea Shadow.

(Lockheed Martin) ,

Above Years of stealth technology were designed into the low visibility of the Lockheed F-22 Raptor. Without black world, no F-22, or at least, many more years of R&D. (Lockheed Martin)

Preparations for Deployment

As the 9th SRW prepared to deploy overseas, much talk in the crew lounge was devoted to anti-SAM tactics. The plan was to penetrate enemy airspace at Mach 3; if fired upon, the pilot would accelerate to Mach 3.2 and climb, thereby forcing the missile’s guidance system to recalcu­late the intercept equation. One half-baked idea was to dump fuel at the same time, thereby becoming lighter and increasing the rate of climb. The debate was ended during a training sortie over Montana, when a crew dumped fuel for ten seconds to see if the afterburner would ignite the fuel trail. Instead it turned instantly into an ice cloud in the -55 degree stratosphere and left a five mile-long contrail – finger pointing directly to the aircraft. The pilot reported that he could see the trail for hundreds of miles after having turned back towards the west!

On 11 January 1968, during this work-up period, yet another incident befell the 9th SRW. Lt Col ‘Gray’ Sowers and ‘student’ Capt Dave Fuehauf – on his third training sortie – experienced a double generator failure in SR-71B ‘957, near Spokane, Washington. They immedi­ately switched off all non-essential electrically powered equipment to conserve batten’ power and despite repeated attempts they were unable to re-set both generators. With most of Washington State bases w eathered out, they had little option but to press on for Beale. Their long straight in approach looked good until the 175kts ‘final’ placed the aircraft in its natural ten degrees nose-up angle of attack. This allowed some dry-tank fuel inlet ports to ‘suck air’ which in turn interrupted the gravity How of fuel to the engine combustion chambers, because the fuel boost pumps were inoperative. This caused cavitation, both J58s flamed out and at 3,000ft Gray ordered bail­out. Both crew members survived as ‘957 ‘pancaked’ inverted, only seven miles north of Beale’s long runway.

Above On landing, a forty-foot diameter brake chute rapidly decelerates the aircraft. (Paul Crickmore)

Below Back in ‘the barn’ the crew disembark and are driven back to the Physiological Support Division (PSD) building where they shower and change before debriefing the mission.

(Paul Crickmore)

Preparations for Deployment


As the 1 SRS neared operational readiness, decisions were made by Col Bill Hayes (9th SRVV Commander) and Col Hal Confer (Director of Operations) as to which crews would be first to be deployed to Kadena AB, Okinawa. Three aircraft and four crews would be deployed and the crews themselves pulled straws to decide the ‘batting order’; the fourth crew would be standby for the three deploying aircraft and would arrive on Kadena, if their services weren’t needed, by KC-135Q tanker. Command of the Operating Location (OL-8) would alternate between the 9th SRW’s wing commander and vice commander (and later Deputy Chief of Operations). Two days before Glowing Heat, the codename for the deploy­ment, six KC-135Q. tankers were positioned at I lickam AFB, Hawaii. Emergency radio coverage was set up on Wake Island and on 8th March 1968, Majs Buddy Brown and his RSO Dave Jenson left Beale in ‘978 and became the first Senior Crown crew’ to deploy to Kadena. Two
days later Maj Jerry’ O’Malley and Capt Ed Payne deliv­ered ‘976 to the OL, to be follow’ed on the 13 March by Bob Spencer and Keith Branham in ‘974. Finally, three days later, in late evening rain Jim Watkins and Dave Dempster the back-up crew, were wearily disgorged from the ‘135. The crews and their mounts were ready for business.

Due to maintenance problems, Buddy Brown and Dave Jenson missed their chance of being the first crew to fly the SR-71 operationally; instead, that accolade went to Maj Jerry O’Malley and Capt Ed Payne in ‘976. The

Below Two SR-71В pilot trainers were built, serials 17956 and 17957. (USAF)

Preparations for Deployment
Bottom SR-7 IB. 17957 crashed on I I January 1968, both the IP Lt Col ‘Gray’ Sowers and the student Capt Dave Fruehauf ejected safely. (Appeal Democrat)

Preparations for Deployment

mission was flown on Thursday 21 March 1968 and their route Was similar to that flown by Mele Vojvodich in his A-12 ten months earlier. However, with its large, high definition camera in the bay, the A-12 was a photo­graphic platform only. For its first operational mission, the SR-71 carried both cameras and Goodyear Side­Looking Airborne Radar (SLAR) located in a detachable nose section, together with its associated AR-1700 radar recorder unit.

Having refuelled after their first run, Jerry’ climbed and accelerated on track for their final ‘take’ for the mission, which was to be flown over the DMZ. For this run, the primary sensor was the SLAR. On arrival back at Kadena Jerry and Ed were confronted with a base completely ‘fogged in’. Despite a good Ground Controlled Approach (GCA), Jerry never saw the runway and climbed back to contemplate further options. Low on fuel, another tanker was launched and 25,0001bs of fuel taken onboard. The crew then received a two-figure encoded number which told them to divert to Taiwan. In company with two • tankers and the SR-71 adopting a tanker call-sign for security reasons, the three ship formation made its slow, lumbering way to Ching Chuan Kang, Taiwan. On arrival the SR-71 was quickly hangared and the next day the ‘take’ was downloaded and despatched for processing – the film to the 67th RTS at Yokota AB, Japan and the SLAR imagery to the 9RTS at Beale AFB. After two nights at CCK, Jerry and Ed ferried ‘976 back to Kadena and a superb reception from their friends.

Post-mission intelligence results were stunning. The SLAR imagery had revealed the location of many artillery emplacements around Khe Sanh, and a huge truck park used for logistics support. These sites had eluded US sensors on other recce aircraft up to that point. Over the next few days air strikes were mounted against both targets, reducing their effectiveness dramatically. After a 77 day siege, Khe Sanh was at last relieved on 7 April 1968 (two weeks after ‘976’s discovery sortie). As a result of their highly successful mission both Maj Jerome F O’Malley and Capt Edward D Payne were each awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. On its very’ first operational mission the SR-71 had proved its value.

Above The raised cockpit of SR-71В 17956 is immediately apparent as this aircraft taxies back – note brake chute doors open. (Paul Crickmore)

Mow To compensate for the loss of I7957.YF-I2A 60-6934 was taken from storage and its front forebody replaced by a static test specimen to create the so-called SR-71C, which was re-serialed 17981 and nicknamed The Bastard’. (USAF)

Preparations for Deployment

Early OL-8 operational sorties were typified by problems involving the SR-71’s generators, this often led to aircraft having to divert into one of the USAF bases in Thailand. Of the 168 SR-71 sorties flown by OL-8 throughout 1968, 67 were operational missions over North Vietnam, the remaining sorties being FCFs or for crew training. In addition the first of many aircraft change arounds took place when over a period of seven days in September, ‘970 and ‘962 took over from ‘978, ‘976 and ‘974. Crew rotation also took place with no less than 21 crews having taken the SR-71 into battle over the same period. It was while operating out of Kadena that the SR-71 received its nickname, Habu,

Подпись:after a poisonous pit viper found on the Ryuku Islands: though non aggressive, it can inflict a painful bite if provoked. Although resisted by officialdom, the name Habu proved to be ineradicable amongst all associated with Senior Crown.

OL-8 lost its first ‘Habu’ on 10 May 1970, shortly after Majs Willie Lawson and Gil Mortinez had air refuelled ‘969 near Korat RTAFB. Struggling to clear a saddle-back of cloud at 30,000ft, Lawson eased ‘969 into a slightly steeper climb. However, on entering turbulent cloud, both engines flamed out. The aircraft’s angle of attack increased, then suddenly the nose pitched-up and recovery was impossible. Both crew members ejected safely and landed, resplendent in their ‘silver moon suits’, near U Tapao.



ince the Skunk Works was founded in 1943, the world has witnessed extraordinary geopolitical changes. Does it therefore follow that the need for ‘Skunk Works’ type operations in today’s world is less now than it was nearly sixty years ago? The author would argue that the need is greater. Such an assertion is made not through some romantic attachment to the aviation pioneers of a bygone era – there is no room for sentiment in today’s business world – but rather, it is founded upon the Skunk Works’ ability to embrace an ethic of continual change, whether it be in the pursuit of new technologies or the application of operating structures, as set out by Kelly Johnson all those years ago (see below). In August 1992 the Lockheed Advanced Development Company released a summary document entitled ‘The Skunk Works’ Approach to Aircraft Development, Production and Support,’ some of which follows:-

‘Over the past few years, we have witnessed sweeping geopolitical changes and revolutionary events that are trig­gering major changes in our nation’s defence requirements. Clearly, in future years, the Defence Department and serv ices will be operating with much smaller force struc­tures and budgets. The resulting challenge will be to maintain a viable, responsive defence infrastructure in the face of budget reductions. To meet this challenge, both the Defence Secretary and Congress are proposing new approaches to DoD acquisition that emphasize research and advanced technologies: technology demonstrators and prototypes; selective upgrading of existing systems; and selective/low rate procurement of new systems.

But not only will we have to develop new technology and systems, we must implement acquisition strategics and management approaches that will enable development and fielding of new systems in a more timely and less costly manner. For the past half century, the lasckheed Skunk Works and its government customers have employed specialized management methods that have done just that…The Lockheed Skunk Works has demonstrated a unique ability to rapidly prototype, develop and produce a w ide range of highly advanced aircraft for the US armed forces and intelligence agencies. The P-80, U-2, F-104, SR-71 and, more recently, the F-117 are widely recognised as among the most significant achievements of the aero­space industry.

These and other Skunk Works aircraft have incorporat­ed breakthrough technology to achieve new thresholds in aircraft and systems performance. The common thread among these aircraft is that they were created by men and women working together employing a unique approach to aircraft development – the Skunk Works approach. This management approach, developed by the founder of the Skunk Works C. L. "Kelly" Johnson, fosters creativity and innovation, and has enabled prototyping and development of highly complex aircraft in relatively short time spans and at relatively low cost. It has also demonstrated effi­cient, economical production of complex systems in small quantities and at low production rates.’

This is of course the skunk standing up for itself, but it 112 is hard to argue with the logic, or the history.

Based on lessons learned from early Skunk W’orks programs, Kelly Johnson developed and wrote the Basic Operating Rules of the Skunk Works. These fourteen "rules" addressed program management, organization, contractor/customer relationships, documentation, customer reporting, specifications, engineering drawings, funding, cost control, subcontractor inspection, testing, security, and management compensation. Consider rules One to Four:

(1) The Skunk Works’ manager must be delegated prac­tically complete control of his program in all aspects. He should report to a division president or higher [In other words, it is essential that the program manager have authority to make decisions quickly regarding technical, finance, schedule, or operation matters.]

(2) Strong but small project offices must be provided both by the’customer and contractor [The customer program manager must have similar authority to that of the contractor. I

(3) The number of people having any connection with the project must be restricted in an almost vicious manner. Use of a small number of good people (10 to 25 per cent compared to the so-called normal systems). [Bureaucracy makes unnecessary work and must be controlled brutally.]

(4) A very simple drawing and drawing release system with great flexibility for making changes must be provid­ed. [This permits early work by manufacturing organizations, and schedule recovery if technical risks involve failures.]

All of these rides still make sense. That the Skunk Works has been staffed by the most innovative and talent­ed people in the aerospace industry is beyond dispute – Kelly once remarked to Bob Gilliland, (then Chief Test Pilot of the SR-71) "I’m a prima donna and I’m surrounded by prima donnas."

Latterly, Lockheed has performed well, buy ing up in the process Martin Marietta and General Dynamics. With a management hierarchy in all three companies, there is a clear need to consolidate. The new president of this empire is Dain Hancock, from Lhc General Dynamics Corporation’s F-16 Fighting Falcon program. When Jack Gordon, president of the Skunk Works suddenly announced that he was retiring, he was replaced by anoth­er ex-GD man, Robert T Klrod, who holds a master’s degree in business administration. Paul Martin, former Skunk Works executive vice president, has also gone. Gary Grigg, a company spokesman confirmed that: "There may not be as many skunk logos on the buildings when we repaint them".

When a new Chief Executive is appointed to any large corporation, they invariably come with their own agenda and ‘baggage’, gathered from past experiences. In the author’s opinion, it would be a disaster of terrible propor­tions, maybe for the company, maybe for the US, maybe for the world, if president Hancock’s agenda included dismantling the Skunk Works by stealth.

Other Sorties

Although the vast majority of early Habu flights from Kadena were in support operations in Vietnam, this was not exclusively the case. On the night of 27 September 1971, Majs Bob Spencer and ‘Butch’ Sheffield flew ‘980 on a northerly track. US Intelligence had obtained details of the largest ever Soviet naval exercise to be held off Vladivostok, in the Sea of Japan; and the Habu was an ideal vehicle for stirring up the Soviet fleet’s defence systems. National security officials were especially interested in obtaining signal details relating to the Soviets’ new SA-5 (Gammon) SAM system.

As ‘980 bore down on the target area, dozens of Soviet radars were switched on and just short of entering Soviet airspace, the Habu was rolled into a full 35 degree banked turn, remaining throughout in international airspace. However, on approach to the collection area, Bob noted the right engine’s oil pressure was dropping. Clearing the
area, Bob discovered the reading had fallen to zero. He shut down the engine and was forced to descend and decelerate to subsonic speeds. Having stirred up a hornets nest, they were now sitting ducks for any Soviet fast jets sent up to intercept the oil-starved Habu. Worse still, at lower altitude they were subjected to strong headwinds which rapidly depleted their fuel supply. Butch calculated that recovery back to Kadena was impossible – instead they’d have to divert into South Korea.

The OL commander had been monitoring ‘980’s slow progress and as the Habu neared Korea, US listening posts reported the launch of several MiGs from

Other Sorties

Other Sorties
Above and below Majs Jerry O’Malley and RSO Ed Payne flew the first operational SR-71 sortie over North Vietnam in 17976 on Thursday 21 March 1968. (USAF/Lindsay Peacock)

Other SortiesПодпись:Other SortiesPyongyang, North Korea. In response USAF F-102s were scrambled from a base near Hon Chew, South Korea and vectored into a position between the Habu and the MiGs. It was later established that the MiG launch was uncon­nected with the Habu’s descent and Bob recovered ‘980 into Taegu, South Korea, without further incident. In all their EMR ‘take’ had recorded emissions from 290 different radars, but the greatest prize was ‘capture’ of the much sought-after SA-5 signal characteristics.

On 20 July 1972 while returning to Kadcna from an operational mission, Majs Denny Bush and Jimmy Fagg were caught shortly after touch down in ‘978 by excessive cross winds. Jettisoning the ’chute by the book, to prevent the aircraft from ‘weather-cocking’ sharply into wind, the extended roll-out caused the aircraft to roll off the end of the runway and in a twist of fate, they hit the concrete housing for emergency crash barriers. One of the main landing gear struts was badly damaged which in turn caused substantial additional damage. Both crew members were unhurt, but ‘978 was written off. The final SR-71 to be written off was lost on 21 April 1989. On that occa­sion one of the engine compressor discs disintegrated during Mach 3 flight, the debris severing one hydraulic system and damaging the other. Lt Col Dan House and Maj Blair Bozek decelerated and descended ‘974 down to 400kts and 10,000ft. When the remaining hydraulic system ran dry, both men safely ejected just a few hundred yards off the coast of Luzon and were picked up by Philippino fishermen. They were later collected by an HH-53 Super Jolly Green Giant and flown to Clark AFB.

OL-8 was redesignated OL RK on 30 October 1970, became OL KA on 26 October 1971 finally Detachment 1 or Det 1, of the 9th SRW in August 1974, a title it retained until deactivated in 1990. During 22 years of service, the unit flew missions to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, North Korea, airspace off the USSR, China and four 11-hour return flights to the Persian Gulf, during the Iran/Iraq war.

Operations from the USA

Rolling down Beale’s runway 14, in ‘977, on October 1968, new pilot/RSO team Majs Abe Kardong and Jim Kogler were approaching VI when a wheel failed, throwing shrapnel into the fuel cells and causing a fuel fire. Abe aborted take-off at high speed, causing the remaining tyres on that leg to burst. The brake ’chute blossomed only to be consumed immediately by the fire. With one wing low and the aircraft off-centre to the runway, ’977’s sharp inlet spike knifed through the barrier cable at the end of the runway, rendering it useless. Now on the overrun, Jim ejected while Abe rode out the high­speed sleigh ride. When the dust settled, he was helped from the cockpit by the Mobile Control crew for that day, Willie Lawson and Gil Martinez. Despite four 9th SRW aircraft losses between 13 April 1967 and 10 October 1968, Category III ‘Operational’ Testing ended in December 1968 and the wing was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for meeting the challenges of bringing the most advanced reconnaissance system of its day to operational readiness.

Подпись: THE SR-7On 11 April 1969, Lt Col Bill Skliar and Maj Noel Warner lost SR-71A, 64-17953 on the Edwards runway

following an incident similar to the loss of ‘977. ‘Dutch 69’ had just rotated when one of the left main gear tyres blew. With the aircraft at max gross weight, the other two tyres on that leg also blew. Bill aborted the take-off, but red hot shrapnel from the disintegrating wheel hubs punctured the fuel tanks and triggered a fire which engulfed the entire aircraft. Once at a standstill Bill exited the aircraft to the right and assisted Noel from his rear cockpit. ‘953 never flew again and after this accident the Goodrich tyres were ‘beefed up’.

A third pitch-up accident happened on 18 December 1969, when Director of the Test Force, Lt Col Joe Rogers and RSO Lt Col Gary Heidelbaugh were acceler­ating and climbing ‘953. They heard a loud explosion which was accompanied by a loss of power and severe

Above Darrell Greenamyer and Steve Belgau first flew the ‘Big Tail’ conversion of 17959 on I I December 1975.The redesign increased reconnaissance gathering capacity but was not pursued on the operational fleet. (Paul Crickmore Collection)

Left The last operational SR-71 to be lost was 17974 on 21 April 1989. Pilot Maj Dan House and his RSO Capt Blair Bozek ejected safely. (Paul Crickmore Collection)

Right Detachment 4 (Det 4) of the 9th SRW was created at RAF Mildenhall on I April 1979. (Paul Crickmore)

Bottom right Another Det 4 sortie gets underway. (Paul Crickmore)

control difficulties. As the aircraft decelerated, its angle of attack continued to increase, despite Joe ‘firewalling’ the control stick. Realising they’d entered an irrecoverable corner of the flight envelope, ten seconds after the explo­sion, Joe ordered “Let’s get out Gary” and both men safely ejected; ‘953 crashed at the Southern end of Death Valley. The cause of the explosion remains unknown.

On 17 June 1970, the 9th lost another SR-71A, serial ‘970, following a mid-air collision with a KC-135Qshort­ly after taking aboard 35,000 lbs of fuel. The Habu hit clear air turbulence (CAT) and the entire nose of the aircraft smashed into the rear of the tanker. No one aboard the tanker was injured and Buddy Brown and Mort Jarvis were able to eject safely – although the former sustained two broken legs during the ejection.

At MOOhrs on 6 October 1973, Syrian and Egyptian artillery barrages on the state of Israel spelled the begin­ning of the Yom Kippur War. With Israel caught off guard, the Arabs made substantial gains both in the Sinai and the Golan Heights. In view of the grave situation faced by Israel, the US decided to step up intelligence efforts and used the SR-71 to provide a hot-spot recon­naissance capability. CINC SAC General John Meyer ordered Col Pat Halloran (9th SRW Commander) to prepare for missions that would be flown from Beale
across the war zone and recover into RAF Mildenhall, England. However, the Heath government denied the SR – 71’s use of Mildenhall in a move designed to safeguard the supply of Arab oil to the United Kingdom.

Instead, round-robin missions would be flown from GrifFiss AFB, New York; accordingly, two SR-71As, ‘979 and ‘964, were despatched to the east coast air base where they arrived on 12 October. At 0600 a secure teleprinter clattered out details of the first sortie which was to be flown just 22 hours later. The belligerent attitude of usually helpful allies necessitated that JP 7 fuel and tanker crews be re-positioned from Mildenhall and Turkey to Zargoza in Spain and emergency landing sites were proving all but impossible to find. Nevertheless, Jim Shelton cranked ’979’s engines on cue and lifted off from Griffiss and headed east at 0200hrs. Just off the east coast he made good the first of many ARCP’s (Air Refuelling Contact Points), he topped-off and continued east to the

Operations from the USA

next cell of tankers awaiting the thirsty Habu just beyond the Azores. Returning again to speed and altitude they made a high-Mach dash through the Straits of Gibraltar and let-down for a third air refuelling just east of the heel of Italy. Due to its proximity to the war zone and Libya, the US Navy provided a CAP (Combat Air Patrol), from carrier-based aircraft on station in the Mediterranean. They then climbed and accelerated to coast-in over Port Said. Gary Coleman, the RSO: “There was no indication that anything launched against us, but everyone was painting us on their radars as we made our turn inbound. The DEF panel lit up like a pin-ball machine and I said to Jim, ‘this should be interesting.’”

In all ‘979 spent 25 minutes over ‘denied territory’. Entering Egyptian airspace at 1103 GMT, they covered the Israeli battle fronts with both Egypt and Syria before coasting out and letting down towards their fourth ARCP, which was still being capped by the US Navy. Their next hot leg was punctuated by a fifth refuelling, again near the Azores, before a final high-speed run across the west­ern Atlantic towards New’ York. Mindful of his own fatigue, Gary was in awe of his pilot who completed a text book sixth air refuelling, before greasing ‘979 back down at Griffiss after a combat sortie lasting ten hours eighteen minutes (more than five hours of which was at Mach 3 or above) and involving eleven tanking operations from the ever dependable KC-135Qs Their reconnais­sance ‘take’ was of high quality and provided intelligence and defense analysts with much needed information concerning the deposition of Arab forces in the region, which was then made available to the Israelis.

Operations from the USA

Aircraft ‘979 paid a second successful visit to the Yom Kippur war zone on 25 October, this time being crewed by Majs Al Joerz and John Fuller. A third mission was chalked up by the same aircraft eight days later. Majs Jim Wilson and Bruce Douglas took’ 964 on its first sortie to the Mediterranean on 11 November. The ten hour 49-

Подпись:minute flight departed Griffiss and terminated as planned at Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina, where the detachment had migrated to avoid the New York winter weather.

Despite hostilities between the factions officially ending with a Soviet-backed motion in the United Nations on 24 October, fierce fire-fighting continue to break out at regu­lar intervals and it was to cover disengagement that the SR-71’s monitoring system continued to be called upon, with five further marathon flights being flown from Seymour Johnson AFB.

In total, these nine flights represent a pinnacle of oper­ational professionalism and serve as a tribute, not only to the dedication of the aircrews, but also to that of the staff planners, tanker crews and of course the unsung heroes, that small group of top ground technicians who main­tained the SR-71s away from home. The sorties also stand as a testament to the long-reach capability of the aircraft and its ability to operate, on short notice, with impunity in a high threat environment.


Early in the Senior Crown Programme, Cuban reconnais­sance sorties became a task for the 9th SRW. Flown from Beale and initially code-named Giant Plate, the designa­tion was later changed to ‘Clipper’. Most sorties were ‘stand-ofF runs, flown abeam the island in international airspace. Such a mission would typically take three and a half hours to complete and was considered very routine. Occasionally however, the track was modified to take the aircraft directly over Cuba. W hen the Carter administra­tion entered office, they suspended all overflight actively in an act of ‘goodwill’. In 1978 however, a reconnaissance satellite photographed a Soviet freighter in Havana harbour surrounded by large crates that were being moved to a nearby air base where aircraft were being reassem­bled. It appeared that 15 MiG-23s had been supplied to Castro’s Air Force. The MiG-23BN Flogger H Model was known to be capable of carry ing nuclear weapons and if it was this variant that had been exported, then the shipment violated the 1962 Soviet pledge not to deploy ‘offensive’ weapons on Cuba. Two sorties were flown by SR-71s over Cuba in November 1978. These verified that


Above Map used by Secretary of Defence Casper Weinberger at a White House briefing shows route details of Operation Eldorado Canyon, the US strike at Libya on 15 April 1986.


Below Lt Cols Jerry Glasser and RSO Ron Tabor return 17980, callsign Tromp 30, back to Mildenhall following the successful completion of their Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) flight.

(Paul Crickmore Collection)

Opposite above After the raid, some degraded shots were released to the press. Although never officially acknowledged, they originated from the SR-71’s camera system. (DoD)

Opposite, bottom Just before 17980 returned to the US on completion of its TDY stint at Det 4, three dark red camel emblems were applied to the left nose gear door, in recognition of its part in the Eldorado Canyon sorties. (Paul Crickmore )



they were in fact MiG-23Ms Flogger Es, optimised for air defence; evidence which substantiated Soviet claims.

Det 4, Mildenhall

Not long into Senior Crown, the total number of opera – tial SR-71s was scaled down. The two flying squadrons became one in April 1971. Then as the US disengaged itself from Vietnam, the number of unit-authorised aircraft also declined. By 1977, the number of SR-71A Primary Authorised Aircraft (PAA) stood at six and fund­ing was reduced proportionately. Despite being tasked by national agencies to support a variety of theatre intelli­gence requirements, this extremely expensive aircraft operation was funded by the Air Force. HQ^ SAC were hostile to Senior Crown because it diverted funds away from its bomber and tanker mission and national intelli­gence agencies had become enamoured with satellite generated products. SAC’s Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP), for the unthinkable needed SIG1NT to keep it up to date, and the SR-71 wasn’t capable of gathering ‘long-on-station’ samples of SIGINT like the RC-135s and U-2Rs. The loss of its SAC patronage left Senior Crown increasingly isolated and vulnerable. To survive


continued budgetary raids, it was apparent that the SR – 71’s utility had to be improved in order to become competitive with overhead systems. This required an updated sensor package, particularly an air-to-ground data link system coupled to its Synthetic Aperture Radar.

A ‘marketing package’ was assembled which included details of the SR-71’s performance and imagery capabili­ties. In the mid-seventies, Senior Crown advocates embarked on a PR campaign within the Washington intel­ligence community to gather support for the program. Following a briefing to intelligence officers of the Navy’s Atlantic fleet, interest was expressed in the SR-71’s sea­scanning radar capabilities to detect submarines in their home ports in the Baltic and Arctic areas. The possibility existed that a new requirement could arise which would give Senior Crown a second lease of life. Two missions were flown over the Soviet Pacific fleet near Vladivostok to test the concept and the results were impressive.

Eighteen months after aircraft ‘972 had established a new transatlantic world speed record, the same aircraft returned to England and flew two aborted missions in a bid to obtain SLAR imagery of the Soviet Northern fleet. The ten-day deployment was an intelligence gathering failure, however important lessons were learned about aircraft operating procedures in Arctic air masses.

Aircraft ‘962 arrived during Exercise Teamwork on 6 September 1976, and flew’ the very next day on a ‘Barents Sea Mission’ codenamed Coldfire 001. Majs Rich Graham and Don Emmons flew that and another round – robin sortie out of RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk, before returning ‘962 to Beale on 18 September. The SR-71’s SLAR and camera systems ‘to gather simultaneous, synoptic coverage’ of the Soviet submarine fleet based on the Kolskiv Polustrov, in Murmansk and bases on the Baltic had been validated. After nearly two years of short TDY deployments, Detachment 4 (Det 4) of the 9th SRW was activated and two SR-71s were permanently based at RAF Mildenhall.

Above All battened down and ready for a mission, the crew of 17964 awaits signals from a ground marshal in December 1987.

(Paul Cnckmore)

Opposite, top 17962 formates with two RAF Jaguars of 41 Recce Squadron, based at RAF Coltishall. (Crown Copyright)

Below 17980 at the RAF Mildenhall Airshow. (Paul Cnckmore)




The name of an 11th Century Holy Roman

Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa, King of Germany, is etched forever in contemporary’ history.

At dawn on 22 June 1941, Nazi Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. As its Panzer Divisions rolled east, smashing everything in their path, Soviet industry sought protection deep within the Motherland. Hitler’s maps would have been good enough to show him supply lines of a thousand miles to Moscow… When, after WWII, ‘An iron curtain… descended across the Continent’ and relations between the victorious east and western powers chilled into the Cold War, it was soon discovered that the accuracy of maps and target intelligence held by Britain and the US
was woefully inadequate. With limited human intelligence (HUMINT) being provided by agents in the field, large gaps remained in the knowledge of Soviet industrial and military capability. Stand-off aerial reconnaissance of peripheral targets provided a partial solution to the problem, but the vastness of the Soviet Union left only one option, given the level of technology available at that time – overflight. So began the so called PAROP program – Peace-time Aerial Reconnaissance Operations.

For several years such sorties were conducted utilising converted bombers manned by extremely courageous air crews. De Havilland Mosquito PR.34s flying with 540 Sqn, based at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire, conducted reconnaissance flights from altitudes in excess of 43,000 ft

LOCKHEED’S BLACKWORLD SKUNK WORKSover such places as Murmansk and Archangel. Operations from such heights provided a haven from interception by Soviet fighters and continued until at least 1949.

In June 1948, the Soviet Union enforced a food blockade upon the western zones of Berlin. The allies responded by mounting a round-the-clock airlift; the United States highlighted the seriousness of the situation by redeploying bombers back to Britain. As allied reconnaissance operations continued, it was only a question of time before such actions provoked the ultimate response. It first occurred on 11th April 1950, when a US Navy Consolidated PB4Y Privateer, operated by VP-26 and with a crew of ten onboard, was shot down and crashed into the Baltic, off Soviet Latvia.

World destabilisation esealateded when at dawn on 25 June 1950, communist North Korea invaded its southern neighbour and in so doing, sparked off the Korean War. In Europe, surveillance operations against the USSR
continued; the 5th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (SRG), from Travis AFB, operated Boeing RB-29s from RAF Sculthorpe and Burtonwood. Like the RAF Mosquitos, their high-altitude performance and long range made them ideal photographic and Electronic intelligence (PHOTINT and ELINT), gathering platforms. In February 1951, a small detachment of four RB-45 Tornados from the 91st SRG, from Lockbourne AFB, Ohio were ‘loaned’ to Great Britain, painted in RAF markings and were utilised by a mixed USAF/RAF crew on high-altitude, night time overflights of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries for nearly three years. No aircraft were lost during these nocturnal forays, however, by 1954, developing Soviet anti-aircraft capabilities made it prudent to stop using RB-45s in this role and they were transferred back to USAF control.

Подпись: THE


Not surprisingly, the Soviet Union were becoming increasingly sensitive to Western incursions into its

Подпись:airspace and retaliated by pressing home a series of attacks on any aircraft suspected of violating its sovereignty. In April 1952, an Air France DC-4 was attacked and damaged in the Berlin corridor and less than two months later a Swedish Air Force C-47 was downed into the Baltic Sea east of Gotland. Even search and rescue PBY was attacked whilst looking for survivors; the Russians certainly meant business. Four months later, MiG-15s destroyed a reconnoitring RB-29. On 10 March 1953, a USAF F-84 Thunderjet was shot down over Bavaria by Czech MiG-15s. Two days later an RAF Lincoln (RF-531) of the central gunnery school, was shot down in the Berlin Corridor by MiG-15s; seven crew lost their lives. On 15 March 1953, an RB-50 of the 38th SRS, 55th SRW, flown by Lt Col Robert Rich was intercepted by Soviet MiG-15s. The gunner, T/Sgt Jesse Prim, returned fire and the MiG withdrew. However, on 29 July, another RB-50 from the same wing was not so lucky. Attacked by MiG-15s during a reconnaissance flight near the Soviet border, the RB-50 lost a wing and fell into the Sea of Japan. Co-pilot Capt John E Roche was the only survivor.

As the cost in air crew’s lives continued to mount it became apparent that a new approach to gathering such vital intelligence was needed. With high altitude having already been established as the ‘operational environment’ for such missions, it was a US Air Force Major who articulated the way forward. Having spent some time as an aeronautical engineer with Chance Vought, John Seaberg had been recalled to active duty following the outbreak of the Korean War. It was whilst serving as Assistant Chief in the New Developments Office, Bombardment Branch, at Wright Field, near Dayton, Ohio, that he mapped out high altitude strategic reconnaissance philosophy, proposing to mate an aircraft with an extremely efficient high-aspect-ratio wing to the new generation of turbo jet engines. Utilising such a union, he believed an aircraft would be capable of cruis­ing at altitudes far in excess of any other then in service.

Spurred on by his new boss, William Lamar, Seaburg had, by March 1953, created a formal specification, requiring the aircraft to cruise at an altitude of 70,000 feet, possess a range of 1,500 nautical miles, whilst carry­ing a camera payload weight of up to 7001bs, to be in


Above Undoubtedly two of the world’s greatest aeronautical engineers, Kelly Johnson (right) and his protege, Ben Rich.

(Lockheed Martin)

Below Heavily shrouded for security reasons, the prototype U-2 is disgorged from а С-124 at Area 51. (Lockheed Martin)

Bottom Resplendent with ‘star and bar’ markings, prototype 001 is photographed at Area 51 during very early flight tests.


(Lockheed Martin)




Above The Type A camera system consisted of three Fairchild HR-724, 24-inch cameras carried in the aircraft’s ’Q-bay’.

(Lockheed Martin)

Top This CIA, U-2 overflight of Engles Air Base, in the Soviet Union, captured 32 Myaseshchev M/4 Bisons and 30 other aircraft dispersed around the airfield. (CIA)

service by 1956. These initial proposals were subsequently released to just three of the smaller aircraft manufacturing companies; the rationale being that as large-scale production was not envisioned, the project would receive a higher priority than if placed with the larger players.

Bell and Fairchild were requested to submit proposals for the design and construction of a totally new aircraft; whilst Martin were asked to apply improvements to the

B-57 (a design built under licence by them, but actually developed by the English Electric Company and known in RAF service as the Canberra). In July 1953, six-month study contracts had been agreed with each company and the project, identified as MX-2147, was given the classified code name of ‘Bald Eagle’.

Developments in camera and film technolog)’, required to gather surveillance data from high altitude, had been proceeding in parallel with those made by the aerospace industry. Having established the Photographic Laboratory at Wright Field before the Second World War, Brig Gen George Goddard recruited two individuals, Cols Richard Philbrick and Amrom Katz, who continued in service after the war. Renamed the Aerial Reconnaissance Laboratory, Goddard also helped establish a group of optical research specialists that formed the Boston University Optical Research Centre. These included its director. Doctor Duncan MacDonald. In addition, there were notable industrialists and academics serving on various presidential panels who also played a key role in the development of high altitude reconnaissance imagery; people such as Harvard astronomer Doctor James Baker, Edwin Land, inventor of the Polaroid camera, Allen Donovan and Col Richard Leghorn, an airborne reconnaissance expert from Eastman Kodak. However, it was Jim Baker who had, by the end of WAVII, produced the first 100-inch focal length precision lens for an aerial camera. This work was continued at Boston by Dune MacDonald and his team in the early post-war years and culminated in a massive 240-inch focal length lens which, at fourteen feet, could only fit into an RB-36!

As US fears of a possible surprise Soviet ICBM attack continued to mount, the Air Force set up a study group at Boston to look further into the aerial reconnaissance
problem. Code named ‘Beacon Hill’, it was chaired by Carl Overhage, and first assembled in May 1951. Bringing together Baker, Land and Donovan, some of this team also became members of the so-called Killian committee, set up by President Eisenhower in 1954. It served under James R Killian, and would drive the decision to build a light-weight reconnaissance aircraft.

By January 1954, Bell, Fairchild and Martin had completed their studies and submitted them to Wright Field for evaluation. Apart from all three companies nominating the new Pratt & Whitney J57 axial flow – turbojet engine (with high altitude modifications, the full designation would become J57-P-37), the design submissions varied considerably. As requested, Martin’s proposed Model 294 was a big wing version of the B-57; Bell’s Model 67 was a frail-looking twin-engined craft, whilst the single-engined Fairchild M-195 featured an over-the-fuselage intake and a stub-boom mounting for vertical and horizontal tail surfaces.

By March 1954, engineers at Wright Field had nominated Martin’s B-57D as the interim design, whilst the Bell proposal was felt to be the more suitable, longer-term design. Consequently, a list of B-57 modifications was sent to Air Research and Development Command (ARDC.) Headquarters, to enable urgent Air Force intelligence requirements in Europe to be met.



In April, Seaburg briefed all three designs to ARDC and Strategic Air Command (SAC). This was followed a month later by vet another briefing, this time to Air Force Headquarters in Washington DC. Shortly afterwards Seaburg received approval to proceed with the B-57D and tentative approval for the Bell Model 67; however, on 18th May an unsolicited proposal originating from Lockheed hit his desk!

It was perhaps inevitable that someone in the Pentagon would leak details of the classified high-altitude recon­naissance proposal to Lockheed’s Advanced Development Projects boss, aircraft design genius, Clarence L ‘Kelly’ Johnson. However, after a short but detailed review, Seaburg and his staff rejected the Lockheed design, desig­nated CL-282, and in June 1954 Kelly received a letter

Left When initially delivered to the Air Force, the U-2As were operated in natural metal finish and standard markings.

(Lockheed Martin)

Middle left and bottom left Starting life as a U-2A, Article 393 was converted to a dual control U-2CT trainer in 1973.The elevated second cockpit was accommodated in what was formerly the Q-bay. (Paul Crickmore)

Right In the cramped confines of early U-2 cockpits, partial pressure suits were worn. Here NASA pilot Jim Hoyt under­goes a check in his S100 suit. (Paul Crickmore)

Below Unusually for a military aircraft of its size, the U-2’s ailerons and elevators are controlled via a yoke.

(Lockheed Martin)

officially rejecting his proposal. Undaunted, Kelly decided to pursue funding from alternative sources. Shortly after­wards he therefore presented a refined design submission to a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) study committee.



With the Killian Committee having been briefed earlier on all four ‘Bald Eagle’ contenders and the CIA becom­ing increasingly enamoured of the idea of establishing its



Above Type A system, three Hycon HR-73224 cameras.

own airborne reconnaissance capability, Kelly met with the Government Advisory Board on 19 November 1954. During the course of that meeting he was told that he… “was essentially being drafted for the project”.

The Killian Committee’s decision to back the refined CL-282 proposal was communicated to Secretary of Defence, Charles Wilson and CIA Director, Allen Dulles. They subsequently briefed President Eisenhower and sought authorisation for a programme to produce twenty aircraft at a total cost of 835 million. This was duly sanc­tioned.

A day later Dulles recruited Richard Bissell (a brilliant economist who lectured at both Yale and MIT), to manage the programme. That same day, Kelly received a phone call giving him the go-ahead for project ‘Aquatone’. Within days, Lockheed’s ADP office, better known as ’the Skunk Works’, had by default become a full-scale, advanced design, engineering and production facility. The requirement for absolute secrecy meant that in the years ahead, the Skunk Works team were assured a high degree of autonomy from the rest of the Lockheed Corporation; additionally, the high level of specialised support required to run the programme, coupled with the lack of CIA expertise in this field, ensured Lockheed’s participation in the programme for the life of the aircraft. With one decision, a series of precedents had been set for future aircraft programmes.

The Skunk Works had come into being back in 1943, following Lockheed’s successful bid to build the United States first jet fighter. Kelly recruited the finest engineers from the Burbank facility and put them to work in an area isolated and secure from the rest of the plant – building the XP-80 in just 143 days! The high level of secrecy surrounding the Facility’s activities, together with its location – adjacent to the unit’s aw’ful-smelling, plastics manufac­turing plant, caused Ervin Culver, a talented engineer on Kelly’s team (who later invented the rigid rotor system for helicopters), to habitually answer the telephone using the name ‘Skunk Works’, after a location in a popular war rime comic strip, written by Al Capp – the name stuck.

The team Kelly recruited to design and build the new aircraft included Dick Boehme (project engineer), Art

Above The Itek Iris II Panoramic camera.

Viercck (head of manufacturing), Ed Baldwin and some fifty other key engineers. Kelly nominated Tony LeVier (chief test pilot on the XF-104), to be the projects chief test pilot, but his first task wras to find a secret site from which to conduct flight tests. After flying around fbr two weeks with Dorsey Kammerer, in Lockheed’s V-tailed Beech Bonanza, Tony presented a short list of three possi­ble sites to Kelly, who chose the one at the top of the list – Groom Lake. The site fell within the boundaries of the main Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) nuclear test site. Therefore the area had been cleared, fenced off and granted a restricted airspace zone. Within three months, under the auspices of Richard Bissell, a large team of AEC construction crews worked round the clock to transform the site into a basic test facility, consisting of a tarmac runway, two hangers and a number of accommo­dation trailers. An additional veil of secrecy w as provided when it was agreed that all information released into the public domain would state that the aircraft had been developed as a high-altitude research tool, in service primarily with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA, later redesignated NASA).

To ensure that ‘Kelly’s Angel’ (as the design was being referred to by some in the Skunk Works), maintained a competitive edge over its rival, the Bell 67 (now officially designated X-16 by the Air Force as a cover), Kelly promised that his design would be airborne in no more than eight months after the first metal was cut. The initial batch of twenty aircraft wrere built at the Burbank plant, thereafter further production was moved to Oildale, near Bakersfield, California. On 15 March 1955, wind tunnel testing of the design had been successfully completed and on 21 May, the fuselage of ‘Article 34Г, the prototype, was removed from the jig. On 20 July, the completed aircraft was handed over to inspection for final checks. The next day it was disassembled and put into loading carts. At daybreak on 24 July, Article 341 was loaded into an Air Force C-124 and flown to Groom Lake, or Area 51. There it was reassembled in the semi- completed hangars and three days later static engine runs were initiated. With taxi tests completed – the third of which culminated in the aircraft inadvertently getting


Above This is one of a series of shots taken by an ‘Agency’ U-2 overflight of Cuba on 29 August 1962, when concerns were raised that Soviet MRBMs had been deployed on the island.



Below left and below right Surveillance of Cuba continued throughout the crisis, providing decision makers with vital information of the build-up and later deactivation of weapons systems. (CIA)

Подпись:airborne, to a height of 35ft. The first scheduled flight took place at 15:55 hrs on 4 August 1955. Witnessed by several key Skunk Works and ‘Agency’ people, Tony LeVier, (using the call sign Angel 1), was chased by a Lockheed operated C-47, flown by company test pilot Bob Matve accompanied by Kelly Johnson (Matye would be the second pilot to fly the aircraft). Kelly had insisted that Tony should land the aircraft in a nose-level-main – gear-first attitude. However, after five attempts Tony abandoned this technique and landed the aircraft, having been airborne for 45 minutes, using a conventional tail – wheel-first landing.

It was during phase one of the flight test programme that the aircraft was officially designated U-2, the U for Utility, again designed to obscure the aircraft’s true mission. Bell’s X-16 had also been progressing well, with construction getting underway in September 1954 and its

Right The pledge given by President Eisenhower and repeated by Kennedy, that the US would conduct no more manned over­flights of Soviet territory following the Gary Powers shoot down, implicitly excluded other Communist Bloc countries and the People’s Republic of China. In early 1959 the first of sever­al cadres of Chinese Nationalist pilots arrived at laughlin to begin U-2 flying training. From I960 to 1968 these brave pilots conducted numerous overflights, gleaning vital intelligence relating to the Republic’s emerging nuclear capability – several aircraft were shot down and put on display at the Peking People’s Museum. (Paul Crickmore Collection)

Be/ow In Late 1968, the U-2R entered service under the auspices of the Agency and was primarily employed in opera­tions conducted by the Nationalist Chinese over the Republic of China. (Lockheed Martin)

first flight scheduled for early 1956. However, with the Agency, not the Air Force, now responsible for high-alti – rudc reconnaissance, the X-16’s raison d’etre had disappeared. Consequently, two months after the U-2 _ took to the air, a decision was made to terminate the X – 16 contract – it was a bitter blow for Bell and one that had serious financial implications for several years.

The first of six RB-57s were delivered to SAC, under Project Black Knight, in March 1956. Operated by the 40S0th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing (SRW), 4025th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron (SRS), located at Turner AFB, Georgia, the unit conducted its first opera­tional deployment, under Operation Sea Lion, just four months after activation. Most of these early operations were Electronic Intelligence/Signal Intelligence (ELINT/ SIGINT) missions, flown from Operating Locations (OLs), at Yokota AFB, Japan and, briefly, Eilson AFB, Alaska.

Highly classified, these ferret sorties utilised specialist equipment designated Model 320 or SAFE (Semi – Automatic Ferret Equipment), which had been tested during 1956 and 1957, under the Blue Tail Fly project; thereafter it was declared operational and deployed. In addition, the unit conducted high altitude sampling, during which particles were collected from the upper atmosphere, following nuclear tests undertaken by China
and the Soviet Union. This enabled scientists to ascertain the weapons’ characteristics: yield, efficiency etc.

In February 1957 the 4025th relocated from Turner to Laughlin AFB, Texas and one month later they received the last of twenty RB-57Ds ordered by the Air Force.

For six month, s further air sampling flights were conducted, this time from Eniwetok Proving Grounds, on the Marshall Islands. Then, in early 1959, under Operation Bordertown, the unit deployed to Europe, where they continued to conduct air sampling and ELINT/SIGINT missions, before returning to Laughlin and deactivating in mid-1959.

Back at Area 51, Tony LeVier had completed a total of twenty flights in the U-2 and on 1 September, he left Project Aquatone, having been promoted to Director of Flying, back at Burbank. Planning flight tests became the responsibility of Ernie Joiner and these were now flown by test pilots Bob Matye and Ray Goadey.

Technical Overview

The original CL-282 design submission consisted of a slightly modified XF-104 Starfighter fuselage and tail assembly, a large span high aspect ratio wing and a General Electric J73 – GE-3 non-afterburning turbo jet. However, the J73 was an unknown (and in the long run 15


Above Bill Park carrier-qualified the U-2R aboard USS America
‘ (CVA-66) in 1969. A similar exercise had taken place in early
1964. when Bob Schumacher qualified a modified U-2, redesig-
nated U-2G, aboard USS Ranger (CVA-63). (Lockheed Martin)

Left One-third larger than the earlier U-2A/C versions, the U-
2R brought with it major improvements in mission capability,
payload capability, range and crew comfort. (Lockheed Martin)

Below Operated by NASA as an ER-2 (Earth Resources), seri­al 708, this aircraft began life asTR-l serial 80-1069. Apparent is the more commodious cockpit. (Paul Cnckmore)


unsuccessful) power plant. Acceptance of the CL-282 design concept became conditional upon it being powered by the J-57. During this enforced redesign, the fuselage was both lengthened and widened to accommodate the new engine. The F-104 ‘T’ tail was replaced by a conventional unit and the cockpit pressurised.

To achieve the required operating altitudes, the design was aerodynamically clean and the quest for weight reduction almost obsessive – the aircraft’s unladen weight being just 12,000 lbs. Conventional flight control surfaces on the U-2 consisted of ailerons with a travel of 16 degrees up and 14 degrees down; elevator that travelled 30 degrees up and 20 down and a rudder that deflected 30 degrees left and right. Due to wing flex, the flaps are segmented into four sections on each wing and are actuat­ed to a maximum of 35 degrees down by two hydraulic – motors, interconnected b a flexible synchronisation shaft. Integral with the flap system is the U-2’s unique gust
control system, this enables both ailerons to move 10 degrees and the Haps 4 degrees simultaneously when flying through turbulent air or when cruising at higher speeds in smooth air.

The U-2A’s single Pratt & Whitney J57-P-37 non afterburning turbojet produced 10,500 lbs of thrust at take off and 8,100 lbs at normal cruise. This axial flow, dual compressor unit featured a nine-stage low pressure assembly followed by a seven-stage high pressure unit.

Air was then supplied to the can annular combustion chamber, where a special low v apour pressure kerosene, developed by Shell Oil, designated LF-1A by Lockheed and JP-TS (for Thermally Stable) by the military, was ignited in eight burner cans (two spark igniters were located in cans 4 & 5 and ignition in the remaining cans was achieved utilising connecting flame tubes). The gas stream then entered the turbine section, the first stage being used to drive the high pressure compressor via a hollow shaft; the second and third turbine stages driving the low pressure compressor via a concentric shaft located through the hollow, high pressure compressor shaft. A gear box, driven off the high pressure compressor shaft, provided power for the starter, tachometer, fuel pump and fuel control unit. The turbine high velocity gases were then discharged through a fixed area exhaust nozzle.

As payload weights increased, in 1958 it was decided to uprate the U-2’s propulsion system to the Pratt & Whitney J75. The two variants of this engine, the J75-P – l. iA and the later J75-P-13B, increased available take-off thrust to 15,800 lbs and then to 17,000 lbs, for normal cruise thrust this increased to 13,900 lbs, then to 15,100 lbs respectively.

The U-2 has both an AC and a DC electrical system. The AC system is provided by a 750-YA inverter for normal operation with an additional 750-YA inverter as back up. In emergencies a 100-VA inverter and a 10-KYA engine driven AC generator arc provided. DC power is produced by one 400 amp, 28 volt, engine-driven genera­tor. A 35 amp/hour, nickel cadmium battery prov ides emergency DC power. Should the main generator fail in latc-build aircraft, a single AC/DC generator, backed up by an AC alternator driven from the hydraulic system, provides power to all essential equipment. The hydraulic system is a constant 3,000 psi pressure type, incorporating an accumulator and self-regulating engine-driven pump. The air-charged accumulator stores pressures for peak demands, thus reducing fluctuations in pump loading. It operates the landing gear, speed brakes, wing flaps, fuel boost pump drive motor; and on the U-2F, the latch reci­procal mechanism on the air refuelling system (on late model aircraft this system also operates the pitch trim and spoilers).

Retracting forward, the titanium, zero track landing gear, is of bicycle layout, consisting of twin main and tail wheels. Pogos, or outriggers, are located under each wing at about mid-semi-span, to provide support during ground handling; these too, have twin tyres and are gravi­ty-pull-jettisoned, shortly after the wings begin to generate lift. The main gear tyres are conventional high


Below With the advent of theTR-1 /U-2R, pilots were at last able to wear full-pressure suits. This is the David Clark Company’s S1031 suit. (Lockheed Martin)

Подпись:pressure units, however, both the Pogo tyres and those of the tail wheel arc of solid rubber construction, requiring no inflation. Ground steering is achieved using the rudder pedals, which are interconnected by cables to the tail wheel.

The size of the U-2’s cockpit, varies significantly with variant, however, the general layout is common to all types. Perhaps the two most immediate features upon entering the cockpit are the aircraft’s control yoke (which looks as if it was stolen off the C-130 production line) and the Baird Scientific drift sight, which dominates the upper centre of the front instrumental panel. Utilising a system of mirrors and prisms, the drift sight, with its 360


Above U-2R 80-1067 lines up at Palmdale. (Lockheed Martin)

Below As the long wings get airborne, the pogos or outrigger wheels, are detached and recovered by ground support staff.

(Lockheed Martin)
degree, horizon to horizon scanning head, enables the pilot to visually check the aircraft’s ground track. A rubber cone attached to the display eliminates stray light when viewing the scope. The cockpit is pressurised to maintain an equivalent pressure altitude of 28,000ft. Although the aircraft was initially flown without ejector seats, all aircraft were later re-configured to accommodate a limited capability Lockheed-developed seat, which utilis­es a ‘low-g’ catapult to minimise compression injuries.

In earlier model U-2s, the mission payload was located in a cavernous, pressurised area, behind the cockpit, known as the Q4>ay. As previously mentioned, the acqui­sition of photographic intelligence (PHOTINT), was to be the aircraft’s primary mission. Dr Jim Baker proved to be pivotal in the conceptualisation of the camera system deployed for the U-2. Three camera systems were worked up; the Type A, was primarily refurbished Air Force stock and a stop-gap. The type C, with its 180 inch focal length lens, would be overtaken by events. However, the Type В camera would prove to be Project Aquatone’s workhorse. Optimising a 36-inch focal length lens, its large format film (18 xl8 in) was loaded on to two 6,500 foot rolls. When the system was activated, the camera imaged onto two 9.5-inch wide frames, through a single lens, thereby providing very high resolution, stereo cover­age of the collection area w ith a 50-70% overlap. Manufactured by the Hvcon Corporation, the Type В camera system weighed about 500 lbs, including film.

Also located in the Q. bay was a 35mm tracker camera. This scanned from horizon to horizon throughout the flight, thereby providing the photographic interpreters with an accurate ground track of the aircraft’s flight path.


During the early spring of 1979, tensions between Saudi Arabia and the People’s Republic of Yemen were strained to the point where the US intelligence community’ believed that the Republic was on the brink of invading its northern neighbour. As a result, on the morning of Monday 12 March, Majs Rich Graham and Don Emmons deployed 972 from Beale to Det4 inorder to furnish deci­sion makers with the necessary intelligence information.


After two early morning ground aborts due to cloud cover over the ‘collection area’, the mission finally got underway. Buzz Carpenter and his RSO, John Murphy got airborne and headed for their ARCP off Lands’ End. Unfortunately, Buzz suffered a violent attack of diarrhoea while on the tanker boom, but despite his discomfort, he elected to continue the mission. Having completed the full fuel off-load they accelerated due south; since France had denied them the right to overfly, it was necessary to skirt the Iberian peninsula, entering the Mediterranean Sea through the Straits of Gibraltar. They then complet­ed a second refuelling before returning to high Mach flight and overflying the Suez Canal, before a third tanker rendezvous over the Red Sea. The planned double-loop coverage of the collection area was interrupted by the ANS, which tried to initiate a pre-programmed turn pripr to reaching the correct destination point (DP).

Recognising the error, the crew flew the aeroplane manu­ally while trying to work out what had caused the AUTONAV ‘glitch’. As a result of the miscue, they over­shot the turn point, but completed the rest of the route and made their way back to the tankers for another Red Sea top-up. A fifth air refuelling was completed east of Gibraltar and an hour-and-a-half later they recovered ‘972 back to Mildenhall after a full ten-hour mission.

This mission had generated considerable interest within the 9th SRW as well as at SAC Headquarters and in Washington. As a result, Buzz and John were greeted by a large number of their colleagues as they stepped off the gantry (including Col Dave Young, the 9th SRW vice commander), who presented Buzz-with a brown SR-71 tie tack to commemorate the in-flight incident when, to mis­quote a well known phrase, ‘the world fell out of Buzz’s bottom’.

When the ‘take’ was processed, it was of exceptional quality and the incident which had delayed their turn had yielded the most important information. That unexpected success made additional flights to the area unnecessary.

Consequently, Rich Graham and Don Emmons returned 972 to Beale on 28 March. Deployments to Suffolk continued throughout the early eighties, the main ‘collec­tion areas’ being the Barents and Baltic, in support of US Navy intelligence requirements. On 9 July 1983, British aviation enthusiasts ‘manning’ the many off-base vantage points of Mildenhall noted the arrival of aircraft ‘962, an aircraft that had ‘pulled’ TDY at the base on previous occasions. In fact Majs Maun’ Rosenberg and ‘ED’ McKim had just completed a seven hour operational flight from Beale to Mildenhall via the Barents/Baltic areas in the Palmdale flight test aircraft ‘955. The false serial number had been applied to ensure unwelcome attention was not drawn to the unique operational test deployment then undenvay.

In its detachable nose section, ‘955 was equipped with Loral’s Advanced Synthetic Radar System (ASARS-1), a system that provided a quantum leap in radar resolution. With maritime data collected during the inbound flight, Majs ‘BC’ Thomas and John Morgan conducted a 2.6 hr ASARS operational test sortie of land-based targets in East Germany nine days later. On 21 July, Maury and ED took their turn on a four hour mission. The final ASARS operational proving flight was conducted by BC and John on 30 July, when they flew ‘962, ie ‘955, on a 7.3 hr flight back to Beale, again via the Baltic and Barents Seas. The series of tests were extremely success­ful and following further tests back at Palmdale, two production radar sets for the operational fleet were fund­ed and deployed.


All Agency pilots recruited into Project Aquatone came straight from the Air Force, on a ‘suspended contract’, in which their ‘grey suit’ time counted towards their time served in the military. Two of the initial cadre of six pilots, Marty Knutson and Carmen Vito, were both F-84 ‘jocks’, assigned to the 31st Strategic Fighter Wing, locat-

ed at Turner AFB, Georgia. Having passed various inter­views, conducted by mysterious civilians at insalubrious hotels, they next spent a week undergoing one of the most rigorous medicals ever devised, at the Lovelace Clinic, Alburquerque, New Mexico. In all, about 25 pilots, in three intakes, would be recruited into the Agency programme.

Early U-2 training flights w’ere punctuated by a number of flameouts, a situation that continued until Pratt & Whitney engineers perfected high altitude opera­tion of the J57. Such events required the pilot to seek out denser air at 35,000 feet, in order to effect a relight. On a few occasions, when pilots were unable to get a relight, it became necessary to divert. But despite a number of such occurrences, Aquatone remained in the black.

A unique facet of U-2 piloting, was flight in that part of the envelope known as ‘coffin comer’. Having climbed rapidly to 60,000 feet the aircraft would then follow a cruise-climb schedule; as fuel was burned off and the aircraft became lighter, it could climb higher – as high as

Top left NACA/NASA association with the U-2 can be traced back to the beginning of the programme. Initially a CIA paper exercise, designed to cover the aircraft’s true mission, NASA received two U-2Cs (56-6681 and 56-6682 redesignated NASA 708 and 709 respectively), on the 3rd and 4th June 1971, to form its High Altitude Missions Branch (HAMB), based at Moffett Field, California. (Paul Crickmore)

Top right When U-2C 56-6681 was retired in June 1987, its NASA designation, 708, was transferred to an ex-Air Force TR – I (80-1069), which served alongside the purpose-built ER-2 prototype NASA 706 and the remaining U-2C, NASA 709.

(Paul Crickmore)

Above NASA U-2C 709 was retired in April 1989 and at the time of writing, following delivery of the second ER-2, NASA 709, the fleet consists of two ER-2s (now redesignated U-2ERs) and the ex-Air Force TR-1 (U-2R). (Lockheed Martin)

feet in some flight conditions. However, in the rarefied air above 60,000 feet, the never exceed speed curve virtually meets the aircraft stall speed curve. This crucial difference could be as little as lOkts. At high altitude with the engine at full power and in a banked turn, it was possible for the high wing to reach Mach bullet w hilst the inside wing approached stall buffet – exceed Mach buffet by more than four knots and it was possible that the fragile U-2 would disintegrate!

During the Geneva Summit, on 21 July 1955,

President Eisenhower had proposed that an ‘Open Skies’ plan should be considered between the United States, the Soviet Union and other participating countries, wherein a limited number of annual reconnaissance overflights w ould be made in order to verify claims of declared force strengths. Surprised by the proposal, the Soviet delega­tion reacted favourably and agreed to confer with their Party Secretary, Nikita Khrushchev. He however refused to either sign-up to, or reject the proposal. Such prevari­cation ensured that ‘Open Skies’ failed one month later, when a vote was taken in the United Nations.

By June 1956, it was judged that initial flight test and

Above left Unique to U-2 operations is the ‘howdah’, which was designed to protect crew members from the sun’s heat.

(Lockheed Martin)

Below U-2R. 80-1082 equipped with short nose but super-pods is seen complete with tail-art at Beale AFB in November 1986.

(Paul Crickmore)

Above Slow sink rate, due to the high aspect ratio wing, has always caused problems when landing U-2s; as a result, every landing – including touch-and-goes, are accompanied by two ‘mobile’ U-2 pilots, one in radio contact, in a fast car. As the U – 2 crosses the threshold it is chased and height-to-go is called-off. (Paul Crickmore)

Right Airborne in just over 1,000ft of runway, the U-2’s climb rate has always been impressive; with lighter, earlier models reaching 50,000ft in just 10 minutes. (Paul Crickmore)


Подпись: THEOperations

training objectives of the U-2 programme had been completed; accordingly six operational pilots, together with ten U-2s, were deemed ready for operational deploy­ment. The death of Eisenhower’s ‘Open Skies’ proposal led the President to sanction, for an initial ten-day peri­od, a program that would have a profound impact within the intelligence fraternity and on international power poli­tics – Operation Overflight. In anticipation of these events, two U-2s had been air-freighted to RAF

I. akenheath, England on 30 April 1956, where the first of three Agency detachments was formed, under the entirely fictional designation of 1st Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, Provisional (WRSP-1). Known within the


‘inner circle’ as ‘Detachment A’ and consisting of Agency, Air Force and contracted civilians, no operational sorties were flown from the UK and the unit redeployed to W iesbaden, Germany on 15 June. This new location was situated close to Camp King, the Agency’s main West German intelligence gathering facility, within which intel reports from defectors were collected and then used as a basis for U-2 overflight requests.

The first operational U-2 sortie was flown just four days after Det A’s arrival at W iesbaden. Piloted by Carl Overstreet, the platform overflew Warsaw, Berlin and Potsdam, before recovering back into W iesbaden without incident. Image quality provided by the Type В camera surpassed anything previously seen, and the stage was set for ‘Overflight’ to begin operations against the Soviet Union. This was achieved by Ucrvey Stockman, flying Article 347 on US Independence Day, 4 July 1956.

He flew over East Berlin then across northern Poland via Poznan, onward to Minsk and Leningrad, before exiting via the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, landing again without incident back at Wiesbaden after a flight lasting eight hours 45 minutes.

The very next day Article 347 was again airborne, this time with Carmen Vito at the controls on an overflight which included the Soviet capital, Moscow. Again, image quality was exceptional, but on this occasion Soviet fighters tried, unsuccessfully, to intercept the flight.

Yet another mission was successfully completed the following Monday, by which time the Soviet ‘diplomatic cage’ was well and truly rattled. On 10 July the Soviet Ambassador in Washington delivered a formal, public – protest against the flights. Eisenhower was very concerned at the level of provocation that these flights inevitably caused and insisted that henceforth, ten-day blanket clearances were rescinded, and instead replaced by a policy of one clearance, one flight.

Подпись: AVIATION PIONEERS: LOCKHEED’S BLACKWORLD SKUNK WORKSThe imagery secured by these first sorties was developed and duplicated at Wiesbaden, before one set was despatched by special courier aircraft to Washington (the other set was retained at Wiesbaden in case the first was lost or damaged in transit). Once in Washington, they ended up in a run-down neighbourhood where Art Lundahl, of the Agency’s Photographic Intelligence Division, had set up a secret process and interpretation centre, on the upper floors of an auto repair shop, aptly codenamed ‘Auto Mat’.

The vast amount of quality imagery collected by ‘Overflight’ soon put the Agency at odds with gloomy Air Force predictions about the strength of the Soviet bomber fleet, which forced a downward reappraisal of a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). One disturbing aspect revealed by the flights however was the ease with which Soviet radar was. able to track them with early warning and height finding radars. This in turn led the Skunk Works to undertake a series of evaluations using various techniques to reduce the U-2’s Radar Cross Section (RCS). Utilising Article 341 up at Area 51, Project Dirty Bird first saw the aircraft’s planform framed by wires of different dipole lengths running from tail to wing.

Another used Radar Absorbent Material (RAM), in the

Top right U-2R, serial ‘1074 of the 99th SRS turns base-leg at Beale during a training sortie – highly expensive mission equip­ment is removed for such flights. (Paul Crickmore)

Right 1082 taxies to a halt on completion of a low altitude training sortie. Note the externally mounted rear-view mirror, located on the left side of the cockpit canopy. (Paul Crickmore)

Below On 2 August 1988, General Rogers, then Commander-in­Chief of Strategic Air Command, experienced at first hand a high altitude familiarization flight in a TR-1B. (Paul Crickmore)

Подпись:form of a metallic grid, known as a Salisbury Screen. Attached to 341’s lower surfaces, this was then covered in ‘Echosorb’ – a microwave-absorbent coating based on black rubber foam; but neither technique proved effective.

It was during a Dirty Bird test flight on 4 April 1957, that Article 341, the U-2 prototype, was lost. Having suffered a flame out at about 72,000 feet. Bob Sieker’s pressure suit inflated, unfortunately the clasp securing the bottom of his face plate failed. With 70 lbs of internal pressure exhausting through the front of the helmet, it would have been almost impossible for Bob to resecure the clasp and within ten seconds he lost consciousness. Article 341 descended in a flat spin, and upon reaching denser air, it appears that Bob revived and attempted a bail out. The aircraft’s wreckage remained more or less in one piece and was eventually found about ninety miles from Area 51. Bob’s body was recovered about fifty feet away, suggesting he may have managed to clear the aircraft just before impact. Kelly Johnson redesigned the face plate clasp and re-evaluated the decision not to equip U-2s with an ejector seat – had this aircraft been so equipped, it is probable that Bob would have survived.

In August 1956, the second cadre of Agency pilots had completed their training up at Area 51 and were shipped to Incirlik AB, Turkey, where they formed ‘Detachment B’, which consisted of seven pilots and five aircraft.

A third U-2 operating location – Det C, was established at Atsugi airfield near Tokyo in 1957 and in February that same year, the last Agency pilots graduated and were dispersed to the three Dets. By now Det A had again moved, this time to Giebelstadt, just south of Wurzburg and shortly afterwards it was merged with Det B. As the 1950s drew to a close, Agency U-2s had successfully completed about thirty overflights of the Soviet Union and considerably more peripheral and training missions.

From its inception, Lockheed, the Agency and DoD otficials all believed that the U-2’s overflight life would last about two years. But as year three drew to a close, there still appeared to be a gap between the U-2’s ability

to overfly denied territory and the Soviet’s to build a weapons system capable of successfully intercepting the intruder. Certainly the program’s accomplishments were approaching legendary status; in addition to revealing the truth about the Soviet bomber fleet, it had, while operating out of Lahore and Peshaw ar, Pakistan, discovered the location of a new 1CBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile), test site at Tyuratam, which turned out to be the primary test facility for the new R-7 ICBM (later known by NATO as the SS-6 Sapwood).

The potential threat represented by the Soviet’s SA-2

Below A high accident rate during flight training led to two U – 2As being converted into U-2CT configuration. These were both retired and replaced by three TR-1 Bs. (Paul Crickmore)

Bottom With the instructor pilot (IP) seated in the raised rear cockpit, a student brings 1065 over the Beale threshold. Ten feet ‘off the deck’ and 200 feet in the overrun, with a I Okt head­wind, the throttle is brought to idle and the aircraft ‘driven down’ to just one or two feet, where it is held until it stalls. (Paul Crickmore)




OperationsAbove Not long after their arrival at Beale, the white training birds were painted black. Later their designation was changed fromTR-IBs to U-2RTs. When re-engined with the FI 18,they became U-2 STs; and finally today they are designated TU-2Ss.

(Paul Crickmore)

Right Designed to fit on an aircraft carrier’s elevator, the outer 6 feet of a U-2R’s wing folds inboard. (Paul Crickmore)

Guideline, surface to air missile (SAM) system, touting a kill pattern of about 400 feet, was certainly appreciated by U-2 mission planners, who gave known sites a berth of up to 30 miles. Further precautions saw the introduction of a rudimentary Electronic Countermeasure (ECM) suite. Designated System 9, this simple range gate pull-off (RGPO) device, was located in a small aft-facing compartment at the root of the vertical fin. Switched on by the pilot upon entering denied territory, it had the capability of breaking lock if illuminated by an airborne intercept radar. Additional comfort came from the first major U-2 upgrade which had just been initiated; five aircraft were reworked into U-2C models, powered by an uprated Pratt & Whitney J75 engine, which enabled the aircraft to climb an additional 5,000 feet.

On the diplomatic stage a visit by Khrushchev to the United States prompted a reciprocal invitation for Eisenhower to visit the Soviet Union during 1960.

In the meantime, it was agreed a summit would be held in Paris, to which both the British and French would be invited. A thaw in the frosty relationship between the two super powers seemed in prospect. However, all this was about to change.