Senior Trend

In June 1977 the Air Force set up a special project office in the Pentagon; its objective, to exploit low observable technology then being demonstrated in phase one of the

XST program, and in addition, to initiate conceptual studies into a manned strike aircraft program, referred to as the Advanced Technology Aircraft (ATA) program.

Two sets of preliminary requirements for the ATA were developed: ATA ‘A’, a single scat attack aircraft, with a

5,0 lb payload and 400 n mile range; and ATA ‘B’, a two-seat bomber with a 10,000 lb payload and 1,000 n mile range.

An SI 1.1 million concept definition contract was awarded to the Skunk Works on 10 October 1977, for a one year study, based on these two sets of requirements.

As assimilation of the two proposals continued, it became increasingly apparent that ATA ‘B’ (despite being strongly favoured by Strategic Air Command, following cancellation by the Carter administration of the B-1A), w’as in the upper right corner of what was at that time considered realistically achievable.

Consequently in the summer of 1978, Air Force officials decided to terminate further studies involving ATA ‘B’ and instead, opted to proceed with ATA ‘A’ into full scale development (FSD).

Covert funds were established, and key individuals serving on various government committees were briefed on the programme. On 1 November 1978, production was authorised, the programme accorded the code name ‘Senior Trend’ and Lockheed were awarded a S340 million contract to cover the cost of building five full – scale development aircraft, plus, provide spares, support and flight testing (this amount did not include the cost of purchasing the aircraft’s General Electric engines).

The production timescales for this revolutionary aircraft program were tight; its first flight was planned for July 1980 – hence the last three digits of the prototype’s serial number, 780. Initial Operational Capability (IOC) was to be achieved in March 1982, with a planned production run of twenty aircraft. Construction of FSD1, the prototype F-l 17A, (Aircraft 780) commenced at Burbank in November 1979.

Technical Specifications

The F-117A Nighthawk is a survivable interdictor; the determinant in achieving this goal has been the develop­ment of Very Low Observable (VLO) techniques. To confound the principal detection medium – radar – design focused upon producing a low radar cross section (RCS). The reduction of an aircraft’s RCS to levels that would provide an explicit operational advantage had been the ‘holy grail’ for many military aircraft designers since the latter stages of World War Two.

Over subsequent years, development work had, by and large, been focused on producing materials capable of absorbing incident radiation to varying degrees. Although the use of Radar Absorbing Materials (RAM) certainly achieved a reduction in RCS, this was not enough to gain ‘an explicit operational advantage’; that could only be achieved when designers were able to build a shape both capable of performing an operational mission and produc­ing an RCS lower by several orders of magnitude than any current conventional aircraft. It was here that the odds were definitely stacked against the designers, as perfectly demonstrated by the radar equation which basi­cally states that, ‘detection range is proportional to the fourth root of the radar cross section’. That is to say, in order to reduce detection range by a factor of ten, it is necessarv to reduce the target aircraft’s RCS by a factor of 10,000, or 40 dBs.

Having established the required RCS signature levels from various look angles, together with the overall shape required to meet those goals, it then becomes necessary to consider other aspects of the aircraft’s design that will impact on RCS values. For a conventional jet aircraft, these include the air-intake and exhaust cavities, the aircraft’s cockpit, etc. Thus to prevent radar energy

Above All sixty F-l l7As were constructed within the Skunk Works facilities at Burbank. (Lockheed Martin)

Be/owThe F-l 17 is powered by two General Electric F404-GE – FID2 engines. (Lockheed Martin)

reflecting back from numerous corner reflectors inside the cockpit, the F-117A’s cockpit windows are metallised, much like metallised sunglasses; allowing the pilot to see out, but to all other intents, performing as a facetted panel in relation to electromagnetic radiation, reflecting energy away from its source.

The RAM coating applied over the rest of the aircraft was originally made up of 8 feet by 2 feet sheets (desig­nated BX210), which were glued onto the aircraft’s surface like linoleum tiles. The process was extremely

time consuming and expensive, costing S750,000 dollars just in labour to apply the material. As a result, a computer controlled spray coating was developed, which is environmentally safe, bonds satisfactorily to the aircraft and preserves the required radar attenuation characteris­tics. The original compound was known as BX199, but its durability and maintainability was improved upon and it evolved

In addition to producing a low RCS, the F-117A designers also paid good attention to reducing electromag­netic emissions and infrared radiation from the aircraft’s hot parts. An important feature regarding design for low observability is that in general, the design of an aircraft does not have to be compromised to negate the different ‘observables’. For example, if something is good for reducing radar returns, it can generally be made good for reducing infrared returns and vice versa. It was therefore appropriate to shield the exhaust nozzle for both radar and infrared reasons.

Range specifications of ATA ‘A’ dictated planning for the aircraft to be in theatre, which immediately identified the principal radar types to be deceived in order to significantly enhance survivability. These were airborne intercept and SAM radars, which typically operate on a wave length of between 3 and 10 centimetres. It was soon determined that flying at supersonic speed didn’t enhance survivability. Indeed, flying at high subsonic speeds actu-


Above Taken during a training sortie in the flight simulator, the cockpit layout is pre-OCIP phase 3. (Lockheed Martin)

Below The current, post-OCIP phase 3 cockpit includes an active liquid crystal display, incorporated in the Heads-Up Display (HUD). (Lockheed Martin)

ally increased survivability by reducing a defender’s abili­ty of detecting, and tracking the aircraft using infrared systems. It was therefore decided that the platform would be powered by non afterburning engines, which also reduced airframe temperatures, further lowering its IR signature.

Optimum weapon effectiveness was achieved by placing the aircraft at medium altitude, which, for a subsonic aircraft, touting a modest performance envelope, would be utter suicide – were it not for stealth. The aspect which presents a defender with the greatest chance of a success­ful intercept is the frontal zone. If the threshold of detection, by radars using wavelengths of between 3 and 10 cm, can be foiled to a point where the aircraft is just one minute flying time (about ten miles), from the radar head, then there is a good chance of avoiding a successful intercept. Pulling all the strands together therefore, an F – 117A, flying at an altitude of 12,000 feet and 500 knots, will achieve that one minute detection goal parameter by being at its most ‘stealthy’, head on, 25 degrees look down, and 25 degrees look up.

Powered by two General Electric F404-GE F1D2 two shaft, low-bvpass-ratio turbofans the F-l 17A Nighthawk

Right Target acquisition is achieved using this Forward Looking Infra red (FLIR) turret. As the ‘look-angle’ increases, the target is ‘handed-off’ to the Downward Looking Infra red (DLIR) turret, located within the aircraft’s underside, for final target tracking. Together, the two units are referred to as the Infrared Acquisition and Detection System (IRADS). (Paul Crickmore)

Below The F-1 17 is capable of hauling a wide variety of hard­ware, including the B61 nuclear weapon. (Lockheed Martin)

has a maximum sea level thrust rating of 10,8001bs. The engine gearbox drives the main fuel pump, the oil pump assembly, the engine alternator and the PTO shaft, which powers the Airframe Mounted Accessory Drive (AM AD). Total fuel capacitv is approximately 19,000 lbs or 2,800 US gallons of JP-8.

Senior Trend’s original avionics package was based around three Delco M362 F computers with 32k words of 16 bit core memory, as used in the F-16. However, in 1984, its avionics architecture was the subject of a three phase Offensive Capability Improvement Program (OCIP). Phase 1, the Weapon System Computational Subsystem (WSCS) upgrade program was initiated to replace the Delco M362F’s with IBM ЛР-102 MIL-STD-1750A computers. These new units boosted the capability of 1 million instructions per second, 16 bit CPU with 128k words of 16 bit memory expandable to 256k.

Phase II of OCIP, afforded greater situational aware­ness, and reduced pilot workload, by allowing a 4D Flight Management System to fly complex profiles auto­matically, providing speed and time over target (TOT) control. Also included in this phase was the installation of Colour Multi functional Display Indicators and a Digital Tactical Situation Display or moving map; a new Data Entry Panel, a Display Processor, an Auto Throttle System and a Pilot Activated Automatic Recovery System (PAARS).

OCIP phase III saw the replacement of the ageing SPN-GEANS, INS system, with a new Honeywell H – 423/Е Ring Laser Gyro (RLG). The original acronym for this programme was to have been RNIP, which stands for Ring Laser Gryro, Navigation Improvement Programme. However, the system was supplemented with a Rockwell – Collins Global Positioning System (GPS) thereby giving rise to the title RNIP plus. The new INS vastly reduces
alignment time from 43 minutes for SPN-GEANS, to just 9 minutes and considerably enhances overall reliabili­ty, increasing the mean time between failure from 400 to

2,0 hours. In itself, the H-423 may not boost enhanced accuracy (still believed to be 0.12 n m/h), however, when used in association with GPS, the system represents a significant advance in navigational accuracy.



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.


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 Testing

In 1977, Lt Col Dave Ferguson commanded the 6513th Test Squadron, a unit which had its administrative head­quarters together with a small number of F-4s and T-38s at Edwards Air Force Base. However, the 6513th had a black side, seven of its other aircraft were involved in a highly classified programme known as ‘Red Hat’, these aircraft were MiG-17s and MiG-2 Is based up at Area 51. It was whilst carrying out his duties at ‘a remote test site’, that Dave met Bill Park. At that time, Bill was the Director of Flight Operations for the Skunk Works, but he hadn’t flown military7 jets since his involvement in Project Tagboard, the M-21/D-21 drone evaluations that had taken place nearly ten years earlier. Bill was gearing up to fly Have Blue and Dave was asked to get him re­qualified. This was achieved in a T-38 and through this initial contact, Dave flew the occasional T-38 chase sortie during the Have Blue programme. In 1978, Bill offered Dave a job on the Senior Trend Programme, which he accepted following his retirement from the Air Force in 1979. Earlier that same year Bill Park hired Harold ‘Hal’

Below Having been delivered by C-5 Galaxy from Burbank to Area 51, the F-1 17A prototype (FSDI) is undergoing final assembly. (Lockheed Martin)

Above The prototype’s serial – 780 – would prove to represent an over-optimistic first flight target date, with FSDI completing that task on 18 June 1981. (Lockheed Martin)

Farley in as the projects chief pilot, having poached him from Grumman. Tom Morgenfeld became the third pilot recruited, having worked prior with the YF-18 project development team.

In addition to contractor pilots, it had been decided that developmental together with category I and II, opera­tional test and evaluation (OT&E) of the F-117A, would be conducted by a Joint Test Force. Tactical Air Command (TAC), controlled testing and initially provided three pilots and two analysts. The third party involved in this ‘tripartite’ force, was Air Force Systems Command. They provided three pilots, four engineers and approxi­mately forty aircraft maintenance personnel.

To prepare themselves for the first series of flights in the F-117A, the team contacted Calspan, and asked them to provide a flight simulation programme based on aerodynamic data acquired through wind tunnel tests and Have Blue. As the programme was so highly classified, the data was delivered to Rogers Smith of Calspan by Hal, Dave, Tom and Bob Loschke, in a restaurant out at Newhall. During that meeting they detailed their require­ments from Calspan, without telling Smith what he would be simulating; all he had to work from was a set of aerodynamic data of the predicted flight characteristics of the aircraft in the landing pattern. Rogers Smith took the information with him to Buffalo, New York, to create a simulation which would be programmed into the Lockheed/Calspan NT-33A.

This aircraft enabled the predicted stability and control aspects of different aircraft to be simulated, allowing pilots to familiarise themselves with the likely characteris­tics to be encountered prior to their first real flights. In keeping with earlier Skunk Works, blackworld, aircraft development projects, flight testing would be conducted at the now legendary Area 51. On 1 January 1979,

Be/ow Chief test pilot Hal Farley, prepares to vacate the cock­pit upon successfully completing the F-117’s first flight.

(Lockheed Martin)

preparations at the remote site got underway to receive the latest guest.

Back at Burbank, the first production engine arrived in April 1980 and on 2 September, the first engine run was conducted. The complex design and engineering of the exhaust nozzle caused more than a few headaches and on 22 December, the team suffered the first of several nozzle failures. This led to further delays with to first flight. However, on 12 February 1981, an improv. d nozzle was fitted, which helped to eradicate at least some of the problems.

On 16 January 1981, a C-5 from Burbank touched down at Groom Lake, onboard was Aircraft 780, FSD 1 – the combined test team at last had an aircraft. It wasn’t until 18 June 1981 that Hal Farley was finally able to

take Aircraft 780 on its first flight, an event cut short due, yet again, to a temperature build-up in the exhaust section. However, the significance of this event was such that film footage shot during the sortie was edited at the test area into a one-minute sequence. It was then flown by special courier aircraft to Andrews AFB, and then taken to the White House, where it was viewed by President Reagan.

The second FSD aircraft, ’781, was flown for the first time by Dave Ferguson, on 24 September 1981. After completing just four sorties however, it underwent considerable rework, which included retro fitting larger interim tail units and a ‘production’ nose section, which,. after further tests, housed the Infrared Acquisition and Designation System (IRADS) units. In addition, an asymmetric, four-probe, production configured air data system was added.

It was decided to qualify the aircraft for air refuelling (A/R), early in the programme; the first such sortie being flown by AFSC test pilot Skip Anderson, on 17 November 1981. Once A/R qualified, the test program further accelerated, as evidenced by a flight completed by Hal in ‘780, just two days latter, which lasted 2.8hrs. The first night flight of an F-117A was completed by Roger Moseley flying Aircraft ’782 on the 22 March 1982; he flew the same aircraft on the 19 April 1982, successfully conducting the first night air refuelling.

Low Observability airborne testing of the F-117A was exhaustive. For ’783’s fourth flight, TAC pilot Tom Abel went airborne on 15 July 1982 to conduct IR tests of Senior Trend with the help on an NKC-135, an exercise repeated the next day by Pete Barnes. Four flights were then flown against an F-4 to evaluate the IR threat from air-launched heat seeking missiles. By 13 January 1983, Air Force pilots had flown ’783 on no less than 21 RCS

Above After ten flights, FSD I was grounded for over ten months, while larger tail units were fitted to improve direc­tional stability. The earlier desert-camouflage paint pattern was also removed and replaced by an overall, low-visibility grey scheme. (Lockheed Martin)

Below For a month FSD I had wing leading edge extensions added during an evaluation of its handling qualities. (Lockheed Martin)

and IR sorties. These included cued and uncued tests against the best US detection systems available, in addi­tion to ‘Special Category’ tests, flown against Soviet-made equipment ‘acquired’ through various means by the United States. One particular test, flown by John Beesley on a December 1982, included taking RCS measurements while the aircraft’s right bomb-bav door was open – a period when the aircraft is at its most vulnerable.

Aircraft ’783 continued to be the ‘fleet’s’ RCS work­horse throughout 1984, with analysis of the air-air threat continuing. On 24 April, an F-16 made four radar passes against the aircraft, two days later, thirteen radar passes were made by the Fighting Falcon.

By late July, F-15s, F-14s and an EF-111 had conduct­ed similar threat tests against ’783. Thereafter, it was utilised alternately between low observability tests and evaluations, and the integration of improvements made to the navigation and weapons delivery systems.

Aircraft ’784, FSD 5, was the dedicated IRADS test and evaluation ship, consequently its first 106 flights were made in pursuit of this task; after which on 23 September 1983, it was placed in temporary storage.

At the end of November 1984, the aircraft was disman­tled and moved, via C-5, from Area 51 back to Burbank. The operational limitations of an infrared targeting

Right and below Having qualified the F-117 for air refuelling from а КС-135 on 17 November 1981, Senior Trend was cleared to tank from КС-10 Extenders on 8 September 1983. (Lockheed Martin)

Above FSD5, serial ’784, the final developmental aircraft, completed its first flight on 10 April 1982. It is seen here drop­ping a 2,0001b GBU-27 practice bomb during separation trials.

(Lockheed Martin)

Left Initially equipped with the GBU-10, the Paveway II guidance unit corrected the weapons trajectory using full deflection commands to the canards. This had a negative impact on the weapon’s performance. (Lockheed Martin)

Be/ow The GBU-27 featured an improved Paveway III guidance section and when dropped for the first time by Jim Dunn, from 783, the inert weapon scored a direct hit on the 55 gallon barrel target, splitting it in half! (Lockheed Martin)

system with which to aim weapons (however accurately), was already fully appreciated. Consequently, Aircraft 784 underwent modifications to install a low observable radar system to conduct both ground mapping and target acquisition.

It was returned to Area 51 and from September 1985, until the end of the year 34 sorties totalling 45.5hrs were flown, during which time all aspects of the radar mapping and targeting system in ‘784 were evaluated: RCS of the antenna and radome; the ability of the system to perform the ground mapping task; threat evaluation during system
operation; system resolution including four sorties which were flown by 4450th TFG pilot, Maj William Aten (Bandit 164), enabling the system to be evaluated from a front line pilot’s perspective. Those involved in this evaluation have stated that the system was remarkable and incredibly stealthy.

However, it wras not deployed operationally for reasons of cost and on the basis that, to date, Senior Trend as a concept, had not been tested under actual combat condi­tions, something of a Catch 22 – stealth still had its ‘doubting Thomases’.

After a three year programme to improve the aircraft’s RAM coating, a compound known as BX185 was developed. A one – quarter scale model is seen being made ready for RCS evaluations at Lockheed’s Helendale test range. (Lockheed Martin)

When the test detachment at Area 51 changed command on 14 December 1983, John Beesley completed a fly-by in ‘782 patriotically adorned. (USAF)


Formed on 15 October 1979, designated the 4450th Tactical Group, and referred to as А-unit, the Air Force’s first operational F-117 unit was commanded by Col Robert “Burner” Jackson and would be located at the Tonopah Test Range, located northwest of Nellis AFB, Nevada. A security cover story for the blackworld unit was provided by twenty Ling Tempo Vaught A-7Ds and a small number of two seat A-7K. S. These were based at Nellis AFB and referred to as P-Unit. The 4450th Test Squadron (established on the 11 June 1981), was referred to as І-Unit and Detachment 1 of А-Unit, based at Tonopah, was Q-Unit. In addition to providing the ‘avionics testing’ cover story, the A-7s were used to main­tain pilot proficiency until F-117As became available and were also used as chase aircraft.

Supplemental to overseeing the construction program, Col Bob Jackson also set about recruiting the initial cadre of pilots, as A1 Whitley, at that time a Major, recalls:

“My interview occurred in late 1980 at the Nellis AFB, Visiting Officers Quarters. When the time came for the interview, I proceeded to the designated meeting place – Colonel Jackson’s room. When I knocked on the door, it opened slightly and Colonel Jackson asked to see my identification card. I produced it, the door closed, and a few seconds later he opened the door and said ‘Yes, y ou’re Whitley, come in’. In the next few minutes.

Colonel Jackson told me very little about a program

which would involve significant family separation, yet the opportunity to not only remain at Nellis AFB for another full assignment, but also the chance to fly the A-7 again. He didn’t say much more, other than I would have no opportunity to discuss it with my wife and that I had five minutes to make up my mind. With no hesitation, I said, ‘Sign me up’. Colonel Jackson said he’d be contacting me in the future on specifics. That was the end of the inter­view.” In the spring of 1981, Lt Colonel Jerry Fleming the Squadron Commander called Whitley and a couple of the new members of the unit to a remote, secure location in Area 11 (or Lake Mead Base) of the Nellis AFB complex. There, for the first time, they were shown photos of what they would be flying. Whitley remembers: “I was genuinely excited and honoured to be part of something that was on the ‘leading edge’ of technology.

I quickly added a new word to my vocabulary that would have a significant impact on the rest of my Air Force career – ‘stealth’.”

The original plan was that the unit should achieve initial operational capability (IOC), forty months after aircraft ’780’s first flight, which was scheduled for July 1980. Therefore Q-Unit, nicknamed the ‘Goatsuckers’, were expected to assume a limited operational role in November 1982. This was not achieved owing to various design and manufacturing obstacles. In fact, the first production aircraft, number ’785, didn’t attempt its first flight until 20 April 1982. As with the previous FSD aircraft, aeroplane number one, from Lot 2, had been completed at Burbank and flown via C-5 Galaxy to Area 51. There it had been re-assembled and following various ground checks, Lockheed test pilot Bob Riendenauer

In March 1991, the combined test force put this formation together; it depicts ‘781, 782, 783 and ‘831.780 had already been retired. (Lockheed Martin)

The first home for F-117 operations was Tonopah. Note the ‘drive-through’ barns, grouped in blocks of six. (Lockheed Martin)

advanced the throttles and began his take-off* run. The aircraft rotated as planned, hut immediately after lift off everything went horribly wrong. 1’he nose yawed violently, it then pitched up and completed a snap roll which left it on its back before impacting the ground. It was nothing short of a miracle that Bob survived, not so though aircraft ’785, which was totally wrecked. A post accident investigation established that the pitch and yaw rate gy ro input to the flight control computer had been cross wired.

In September, detachment 1 of the 4450th was designated the 4452nd Test Squadron and it was while the unit had a complement of just two aircraft that another milestone was achieved. On the night of Friday

15 October, Major A1 W hitley conducted his first Senior Trend flight and in so doing, also became the first operational pilot to fly the aircraft.

The sporadic nature of the delivery schedule continued and by the end of 1982, the unit still only boasted seven aircraft. Col James S. Allen had assumed command of the 4450th, from Col Bob Jackson on 17 May 1982 and by 28 October 1983, Senior Trend was deemed to have achieved Limited Initial Operational Capability (LIOC). As the potential of Senior Trend became increasingly more apparent to those cleared into the program, the procurement plan was increased to a total of 57 aircraft (the final total was 59). The impact of this decision creat­ed the need for two additional squadrons, consequently in July 1983, І-Unit “Nightstalkers”, was activated, to be followed in October 1985 by Z-Unit, “Grim Reapers” (later redesignated the 4450th Test Squadron and the 4453rd Test and Evaluation Squadron respectively).


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.

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.

Aircraft Losses

Unlike their Senior Trend counterparts at Area 51, the operational pilots at TTR lived a bat-like existence, – sleeping during the day and fly ing only at night, it was both highly demanding and chronically tiring. At 01:13 hours on Friday 11 July 1986, in excellent weather and good visibility, Maj Ross E Mulhare departed Tonopah in aircraft ’792, callsign Ariel 31. 31 minutes later, ’792 ploughed into a hillside 2,280 ft above sea level, killing its

Above A-7s were used to provide pilots with a cover story for the 4450th’s actual mission. (USAF)

Below Pilots of the 37thTFW, 4I6TFS (Ghost Riders),attend a training briefing. (USAF)

Above Ordinance specialists load a 2,0001b GBU-10 practice bomb aboard a 37 TFW aircraft (USAF).

Right In April 1986, two RAF test pilots from Boscombe Down were invited to evaluate the F-l 17 at Tonopah, a fact. that remained shrouded in secrecy for over ten years. One of them, Sqd Ldr Dave Southwood. is seen pictured in an ETPS Jaguar.

(Crown Copy DERA, Boscombe Down)

pilot. The prime reason behind this horrific accident was almost certainly pilot fatigue and spatial disorientation.

The 4450th lost a second F-117A and pilot on 14 October 1987. Major Michael C Stewart got airborne front Tonopah at 19:53 hours, in aircraft ‘815, callsign BURNR 54. In common with the loss of ‘792, the accident report failed to clearly determine the cause, but yet again, repeated references were made to pilot fatigue and disorientation.

Six days after the tragic loss of Major Stewart, the 4450th became the centre of more unwanted attention, prompted by the loss of yet another of its aircraft. On this occasion Major Bruce L Teagarden (Bandit 222) safe­ly ejected from an A-7D after the aircraft lost power. Disastrously, the A-7 crashed into the Rantada Inn Hotel, near Indianapolis airport, killing nine people in the process, h’ollowing a detailed accident investigation however, Bruce was cleared of all culpability surrounding

Above On 10 November 1988, moves began to ease Senior Trend out of the Black, when Assistant Secretary of Defence J Daniel Howard first showed off this grainy picture at a Pentagon press conference. (USAF)

Below In September 1989, the 37th traded in its A-7s for more fuel efficient T-38s. (Lockheed Martin)

the tragic incident. Although publicly acknowledged as being a member of the 4450th, the unit was not known to have any links with Tonopah, ensuring that Senior Trend remained in the black.

During a Pentagon press conference on 10 November 1988, Assistant Secretary of Defense J. Daniel Howard, revealed to the world an extremely ‘grainy’ photograph of the F-117 and Senior Trend was slowly eased into the ‘white world’.

Gone was the need to shelter the 4450th’s covert activi­ty behind a valid aircraft type. Consequently in September 1989, the Wing said farewell to the trusty ‘SlufF and instead operated far more economical T-38A Talons, and later AT-38Bs, in the chase pilot proficiency role. Yet another change took place on 5 October 1989: the 4450th TG, together with its component squadrons, was redesignated. The parent designation was changed to the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing, the 4450th (Nightstalkers) together with the 4451st Test Squadron, became the 415th (Nightstalkers) and the 416th (Ghost Riders) respectively. The 4453rd Test and Evaluation Squadron (Grim

Above F-117A 802. first flew on 7 March 1984, it is pictured here over Lake Tahoe. (Lockheed Martin)

Reapers) continued in its responsibility as the Wings train­ing squadron, becoming instead the 417th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron (Bandits). The new designations had a proud historical provenance, being the first US night – fighter squadrons of the Second World War.

Mayday ’

One of the most ambitious sorties planned for the U-2 was a nine hour flight covering 3,800 miles (2,900 of which would be over denied territory). Launched from Peshawar, Pakistan, the flight would recover into Bodo, Norway. The mission’s objective was to locate a new missile base near Plcstsk that the photo interpreters at Auto Mat had been searching for in vain since 1958.

In addition, the route offered an opportunity of gaining additional material from Tvuratam and the military industrial complex around Sverdlovrk.

Above The U-2R still retains the early high altitude air sampling capability; here the unit is being bolted into 69-10338’s Q-bay.

(Paul Crickmore)

Right Nose-art, or in this case, tail-art, has been a feature of US combat aircraft since WWII. This particular example, applied in chalk, adorned the tail of aTR-l B. (Paul Crickmore)

The plan was reluctantly approved by President Eisenhower, who insisted that it should be flown before 25 April. However, due to bad weather across much of the intended route, Eisenhower agreed to extend the deadline to 1 May. On Wednesday 27 April, improving met conditions prompted a detachment from Det В consisting of two pilots and support personnel to deploy via C-130 from Incirlik, to Peshawar. Scheduled attempts to launch on 28, 29 and 30 April were made. However,

Mayday ’01091

all were aborted well before take-off, due to adverse weather in the collection areas. Finally, at 06:26 local time, on May 1 1960, Francis Gary Powers got airborne in Article 360 and headed for the border. To help draw attention away from the deep penetration mission, a diversionary, peripheral flight left from Incirlik. After three hours and 27 minutes of flight, Powers was stunned to feel and hear what seemed to be a dull explosion, below and behind his aircraft. Almost immediatelv
afterwards the sky turned bright orange and seconds later 360’s right wing dropped. Turning the control yoke left, Powers managed to correct the roll, but then the nose pitched downward – due to damage sustained by the horizontal tail. As the U-2 pitched violently forward, both wings were ripped from the fuselage. Powers face plate frosted over, his partial pressure suite inflated and «hat was left of the aircraft entered an inverted flat spin. Centrifugal forces pinned the pilot to the instrument

Mayday ’
Подпись:Mayday ’Above The 17th Reconnaissance Wing and its flying component, the 95th Reconnaissance Squadron, were activated at RAF Alconbury on I October 1982 and became operational five months later. (Paul Crickmore)

Right Steve Nichols lines-up ‘KONA 17’ an ASARS configured aircraft, prior to departure from Alconbury. (Paul Crickmore)

panel which prevented the use of the ejector seat. Glancing at the unwinding altimeter. Powers noted he was descending through 34,000 ft. Reaching up he pushed the canopy open, unlatched his seat harness and was thrown forward. Now only half out of the cockpit, he realised he’d failed to disconnect his oxygen hose. He then attempted to re-enter the cockpit. When this failed, he began pulling on the hose in an effort to break it. Finally his efforts were rewarded and he was clear; almost immediately his chute was successfully deployed by a barometric sensor – set to activate at 15,000ft. Powers was captured after landing in a field and four days later the political impact of the shoot down reverberated across the front pages of newspapers all around the world.

Operation Overflight, the United States’ most clandestine reconnaissance operation, had literally been blown apart at the seams. An immediate cessation of U-2 overflights followed, backed up later by the retraction of all U-2 operations around the world.

On 10 February 1%2 Frank Powers and the notorious master spy, Rudolf Abel silently passed one another on the Glienicker Bridge in Germany, in a pre-arranged exchange of prisoners. But with 90% of all photographic data on Soviet military developments originating from U – 2 imager)’, the question remained: how, or with what, would it be replaced?

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.

Just Cause

The F-117A received its baptism of fire on the night of 19/20 December 1989, w hilst participating in a highly controversial action against General Noriega of Panama, codenamed Operation Just Cause. Panama had no defen­sive radar network. However, it was decided to commit these high value assets on the basis of their bombing accuracy. Consequently, eight F-l 17s from the 415th TFS took off from Tonopah. Two aircraft w ere airborne spares and returned to Tonopah follow ing completion of the

Below The USAF took delivery of its last F-1 17A, aircraft ‘843 on 12 July 1990. (Lockheed Martin)

initial AR, two aircraft in the lead cell, were targeted to attack an army base at Rio Hato, 65 miles southwest of Panama city. The four remaining aircraft were to take part in an operation which remains classified, but involved special forces attempting to capture Noriega.

This element of the mission was air aborted through lack of ground intelligence. The three thousand mile round trip required five AR’s, and was supported by KC-lOs from the 22nd Air Refuelling Wing, out of March AFB. This ever dependable unit, actually escorted the F-l 17As from Tonopah, all the way down to the Panamanian coast and back! The objective of Major Greg Feest, flying lead, in aircraft ’816, and his wingman Major Dale Hanner (Bandit 239) was to drop one weapon apiece, in an open field adjacent to barracks belonging to Battalion 2000, a unit known to be loyal to Noriega. Their purpose was to stun the sleeping soldiers and disorientate them before they had an opportunity to engage parachute landings by the 2nd and elements of the 3rd Ranger Battalion. However, three hours before the invasion was due to begin, the PDF were alerted to the impending attack and

deployed to one of the Ranger’s objectives – an air strip. As the two F-117As approached their target area, the wind changed direction, a target change was called, caus­ing confusion; the subsequent bombing results were at best questionable. The Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Les Aspin, later stated that target acquisition problems had also added to the pilots’ confu­sion because, “The humid, varied, vegetation… lowered the contrast and gave the [IRAD] system problems”.