Author Topic: The secret history of the U-2  (Read 90359 times)

Offline kevin-rf

  • Elite Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8643
  • Overlooking the path Mary's little Lamb took..
  • Liked: 1112
  • Likes Given: 242
Re: The secret history of the U-2
« Reply #20 on: 08/18/2013 03:24 AM »
Maybe the early ones, but the USAF continues to operate a fleet of U-2s.
Not sure what current numbers are but until fairly recently there were 32 in the operational fleet. As Blackstar notes - maybe the early ones are in a museum.

I believe current flying U-2's are all from the Reagan era third production batch.

There was the initial mid 50's batch that CIA/AF went through, beat up, crashed, rebuilt, re engined in very short order.
The second batch of U-2Rs in the late sixties that replaced the few surviving early model U-2's.
Then under Reagan a third batch was built. The book covers the production details of the first two batches quite well.

The number of aircraft lost from the initial batch is just scary. It sounds like the Taiwan lost slightly more pilots in training accidents than to the Chinese.

The new Version with less redactions is a very enjoyable read. Just finished it. (Yes I am couch bound for for reading it, and not handing someone my credit card ;) ). Except for some small sections concerning Taiwan almost the entire document is there. My new knowledge gem, the U-2 is capable of air to air refueling. I never knew that, actually I never thought it was possible.

I am going to have to look up Chris Pocock's book.
« Last Edit: 08/18/2013 03:27 AM by kevin-rf »
If you're happy and you know it,
It's your med's!

Offline Graham2001

  • Member
  • Full Member
  • **
  • Posts: 241
  • Liked: 16
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: The secret history of the U-2
« Reply #21 on: 08/18/2013 05:32 AM »
There are several pictures of the U-2 on USS America floating around the internet, such as the one below. (As an aside the same site has a picture of a C-130 based on a carrier!)


Offline Archibald

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2421
  • Liked: 383
  • Likes Given: 935
Re: The secret history of the U-2
« Reply #22 on: 08/18/2013 06:18 AM »
Yes, they landed a C-130 on the Forrestal, and without the hook. This is crazy.
By comparison the U-2 is light, slow, with immense straight wings the landing speed probably isn't that high... at least they didn't tried that with a SR-71 or an A-12 !
As for the U-2 spying on the French nuclear tests, that was circa 1966, when the tests moved from Algeria to the Pacific in Moruroa (d'oh, silly me, no need for aircraft carrier to spy the sahara desert...)
« Last Edit: 08/18/2013 04:00 PM by Archibald »
... that ackward moment when you realize that Jeff Bezos personal fortune is far above NASA annual budget... 115 billion to 18 billion...

Online Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11187
  • Liked: 2631
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: The secret history of the U-2
« Reply #23 on: 08/18/2013 01:06 PM »
Yes, they landed a C-130 on the Forrestal, and without the hook. This is crazy.


It worked, but apparently the pilots said that they shouldn't do that again.

The movie World War Z shows a large transport plane taking off from an aircraft carrier. They used a Russian aircraft labeled "US Navy." I cannot remember the type at the moment, but it is C-130 sized. I believe that at one point they also used stock footage of a C-130, so the plane changed configuration in flight. Dumb continuity error.

Online Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11187
  • Liked: 2631
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: The secret history of the U-2
« Reply #24 on: 08/18/2013 01:08 PM »
I believe current flying U-2's are all from the Reagan era third production batch.

There was the initial mid 50's batch that CIA/AF went through, beat up, crashed, rebuilt, re engined in very short order.
The second batch of U-2Rs in the late sixties that replaced the few surviving early model U-2's.
Then under Reagan a third batch was built. The book covers the production details of the first two batches quite well.

The Wikipedia entry on the U-2 lists all the production runs. Unfortunately, it does not list individual airframes, and I couldn't find such a list on the internet with a quick search. It may exist, but I couldn't find it.

Yeah, they lost a lot. Same with the A-12 OXCART. These things operated way out on the raggedy edge of performance.

Is there anything in there about the CORONA bucket drop tests? They took some reentry vehicles and froze them, then hauled them up to altitude on a U-2 and dropped them over Edwards. This was apparently to test recovery systems under cold conditions.
« Last Edit: 08/18/2013 01:09 PM by Blackstar »

Offline kevin-rf

  • Elite Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8643
  • Overlooking the path Mary's little Lamb took..
  • Liked: 1112
  • Likes Given: 242
Re: The secret history of the U-2
« Reply #25 on: 08/18/2013 05:28 PM »
I did not see anything on the bucket drop tests. The history is very CIA centric, pretty much ignoring USAF operations, I also skimmed the OXCART section, where it might be. I did not see any of the appendix's though... They actually dedicated more space the Soviet Bloc operations than Taiwanese operations. Do not get me wrong, what was written was good, just did not feel as detailed.
If you're happy and you know it,
It's your med's!

Offline Whisper-stream

  • Member
  • Posts: 20
  • Liked: 2
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: The secret history of the U-2
« Reply #26 on: 08/18/2013 07:46 PM »
I'm glad that the CIA's U-2 history and OXCART history have both finally been reunited into a single volume. They had each been released separately with substantial redactions (many of with were easy to "un-redact" if you knew the context).

As has been pointed out, this latest disclosure is not really news. The CIA formally declassified the "fact of" its association with Area 51 three years ago, obviating the need to redact the terms "Area 51" and "Groom Lake" from subsequently declassified documents and allowing Agency officials (such as chief historian Dr. David Robarge) to use these terms publicly. Dr. Robarge has been doing so in presentations on Project OXCART since at least 2011.
 
Also as earlier noted, the existence of the Groom Lake facility has never been secret. It has been acknowledged by the U.S. Government for more than half a century. Initially, the CIA used the Atomic Energy Commission as a cover for the Agency's activities at the remote desert outpost. In 1955 the CIA crafted a statement for release to news media through an AEC spokesman to inform the public of construction of the new base. This statement, describing the location and basic configuration of the airfield (then known as Watertown Airstrip) was given to newspapers, television reporters, and radio stations throughout Nevada and Utah.
 
In 1959, the media was further informed of progress on "Project 51" at Groom Lake where EG&G was moving their radar facilities. The announcement also contained the first known use of the term "Area 51," a block of land encompassing the former Watertown facility, which had been officially annexed by the Nevada Test Site in June 1958. In January 1960, an unclassified Nevada Test Site newsletter published "new Area 51 telephone numbers" for the base commander, security office, and base engineering contractor (REECo).
 
Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, Area 51 appeared on numerous unclassified maps including those handed out to the general public by the AEC. The most famous acknowledgement of the existence of the facility was the 1995 declaration by President Bill Clinton in regard to "the Air Force operating location near Groom Lake."
 
As I have been posting to various Internet sites for several years, the CIA declassified its association with Area 51 in 2010, but nobody seemed particularly interested until now.
LIBERTAS PER VERITATEM

Online Targeteer

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3745
  • near hangar 18
  • Liked: 892
  • Likes Given: 450
Re: The secret history of the U-2
« Reply #27 on: 08/18/2013 11:44 PM »
To bring the U-2 discussion definitively to the NSF realm, the ORS-1 satellite uses a modified version of the SYERS-2 camera

http://www.schriever.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123288487

"What makes the ORS system unique is that it took approximately three years to develop from concept to launch and orbit, compared to traditional satellite systems, which typically take seven years or longer to develop. The space vehicle features a modified version of the Senior Year Electro-Optical Reconnaissance System-2 camera, normally employed by U-2 aircraft.

For ORS-1, the prime contractor attached a larger telescope to the SYERS-2 camera to give it adequate resolution from orbit."

If you ever have a chance to watch a U-2 takeoff, don't miss it.  The sight of one rolling for a couple HUNDRED feet at Osan AB in Korea and then climbing away endlessly at least a 45 degree AOA until out of sight is awe inspiring.  Before the J-75 motors were upgraded to F-110s, the roar every morning was deafening and a great alarm clock  ;D

« Last Edit: 08/18/2013 11:49 PM by Targeteer »
Best quote heard during an inspection, "I was unaware that I was the only one who was aware."

Offline joek

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2917
  • Liked: 676
  • Likes Given: 363
Re: The secret history of the U-2
« Reply #28 on: 08/19/2013 12:39 AM »
If you ever have a chance to watch a U-2 takeoff, don't miss it.  The sight of one rolling for a couple HUNDRED feet at Osan AB in Korea and then climbing away endlessly at least a 45 degree AOA until out of sight is awe inspiring.  Before the J-75 motors were upgraded to F-110s, the roar every morning was deafening and a great alarm clock  ;D

Definitely a sight not to be missed--do they still typically do that these days?  I remember one doing a "max-q" takeoff and climb at Davis-Monthan AFB (where some were based for a while).  Holy moly!  The thing seemed to roll for only a few feet and then appeared to leap almost straight up, then climb at a sustained 60-70 degree AOA with an incredible sound.

Also remember way back we had an optical interferometry package (laser and optics in the Q bay) and watching the takeoff was always a treat for those of us who were not out in the boonies tending ground sensors  (While we also had an SR-71 package, the U-2 always seemed more elegant IMHO.)

Thanks for the memories.

Offline JosephB

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 737
  • Liked: 4
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: The secret history of the U-2
« Reply #29 on: 08/19/2013 05:52 PM »
Good thread.

Nothing new but this link has great video & commentary:
http://airman.dodlive.mil/2012/09/u-2-above-all/


EDIT: Check out the image with the airmen in front of the U-2.
Nice shot!
« Last Edit: 08/19/2013 06:14 PM by JosephB »

Offline Star One

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 9180
  • UK
  • Liked: 1600
  • Likes Given: 168
Re: The secret history of the U-2
« Reply #30 on: 08/19/2013 09:10 PM »
You kind of forget it's still in use as it is not the most high profile of aircraft for obvious reasons. How many versions has there been of it over the years?

Is there any likelihood that further examples could still be constructed?

As an aside I wish that these documents could be put on a Kindle, make reading a lot easier. 
« Last Edit: 08/19/2013 09:14 PM by Star One »

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 32192
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 10838
  • Likes Given: 321
Re: The secret history of the U-2
« Reply #31 on: 08/19/2013 09:42 PM »

As an aside I wish that these documents could be put on a Kindle, make reading a lot easier. 

No, kindle needs to adapt to the documents.  They existed first

Offline JohnFornaro

  • Not an expert
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 9161
  • Delta-t is the salient metric.
  • Planet Eaarth
    • Design / Program Associates
  • Liked: 617
  • Likes Given: 320
Re: The secret history of the U-2
« Reply #32 on: 08/23/2013 01:27 PM »
...The NY Times had a piece. It was also on the CBS evening news. Lots of blather, but we've had photos, maps, official statements, and historical accounts of this facility for decades, so I fail to understand the fuss.

Obviously, you haven't seen photos of the aliens yet. They look like Elvis.
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Online Targeteer

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3745
  • near hangar 18
  • Liked: 892
  • Likes Given: 450
Re: The secret history of the U-2
« Reply #33 on: 08/23/2013 01:56 PM »
Maybe the early ones, but the USAF continues to operate a fleet of U-2s.
Not sure what current numbers are but until fairly recently there were 32 in the operational fleet. As Blackstar notes - maybe the early ones are in a museum.

My new knowledge gem, the U-2 is capable of air to air refueling. I never knew that, actually I never thought it was possible.


While capable of that, it would make absolutely no sense.  Pilot endurance/functionality after sitting almost motionless in a full pressure suit is the limiting factor to U-2 flight time, not fuel. 
Best quote heard during an inspection, "I was unaware that I was the only one who was aware."

Offline JosephB

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 737
  • Liked: 4
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: The secret history of the U-2
« Reply #34 on: 08/23/2013 02:25 PM »
Maybe the early ones, but the USAF continues to operate a fleet of U-2s.
Not sure what current numbers are but until fairly recently there were 32 in the operational fleet. As Blackstar notes - maybe the early ones are in a museum.

My new knowledge gem, the U-2 is capable of air to air refueling. I never knew that, actually I never thought it was possible.


While capable of that, it would make absolutely no sense.  Pilot endurance/functionality after sitting almost motionless in a full pressure suit is the limiting factor to U-2 flight time, not fuel. 


Yeah, that's got to be a bear. In this video around 6:10 they show that pilots can at least stay hydrated & have lunch. I see their helmet also has a nifty handle so they can crank it when looking off to the side.


Offline kevin-rf

  • Elite Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8643
  • Overlooking the path Mary's little Lamb took..
  • Liked: 1112
  • Likes Given: 242
Re: The secret history of the U-2
« Reply #35 on: 08/23/2013 03:18 PM »

My new knowledge gem, the U-2 is capable of air to air refueling. I never knew that, actually I never thought it was possible.


While capable of that, it would make absolutely no sense.  Pilot endurance/functionality after sitting almost motionless in a full pressure suit is the limiting factor to U-2 flight time, not fuel. 

It may not make sense, but it was done, and is documented in the history. Especially in Asia and Cuba. Apparently U-2 Cuban operations originated at Laughlin AFB Texas and where at the limit of the vehicle's range. Six U-2's where modified and designated U-2F.

Refueling resulted in two crashes, one fatal.

From the document.
Quote
The in-flight refueling capability was a useful modification to the U-2, But it could not dramatically extend mission length. The main limiting factor remained pilot fatigue, which prevent missions from lasting longer than approximately 10 hours.

Else where in the history it covers the longest U-2 flight,
Quote
During this photomapping missions, a U-2 pilot recorded the longest mission ever recorded in this aircraft -11 hours 45 minutes. At the end of this flight on 10 November 1963, the pilot was in such poor physical condition that project manager prohibited the scheduling of future missions longer than 10 hours.
 

The mission covered Tibet from TaKhli in Thailand, and there was no way a mission of that length occurred without refueling. Refueling is mentioned  in a few other spots.
If you're happy and you know it,
It's your med's!

Offline Stephan

  • Veteran
  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 565
  • Paris
  • Liked: 1
  • Likes Given: 2
Re: The secret history of the U-2
« Reply #36 on: 08/23/2013 03:42 PM »
I believe they did carrier launch but landed somewhere else.

Yes, they did arrested landings with the U2 on the carrier. I have pictures in my library. The U2-R was carrier-qualed in 1969 aboard USS America CVA-66. Earlier U2 variants did it back in the earlier sixties as well. Google it for videos.
Cool! Learn something every day :)

They were spying on the French.

Now you learned two somethings!
Correct.
See : http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB434/docs/U2%20-%20Chapter%205.pdf
Best regards, Stephan

Online Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11187
  • Liked: 2631
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: The secret history of the U-2
« Reply #37 on: 08/23/2013 06:43 PM »
If you are at all interested in this subject, you should get this book:

http://www.amazon.com/Years-U-2-Illustrated-Lockheeds-Legendary/dp/0764323466/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1377283206&sr=1-2&keywords=chris+pocock+u-2

50 Years of the U-2: The Complete Illustrated History of Lockheeds Legendary Dragon Lady
Hardcover January 1, 2004
by Chris Pocock

Online Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11187
  • Liked: 2631
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: The secret history of the U-2
« Reply #38 on: 08/23/2013 10:22 PM »
Attached is a recently declassified history of U-2 aircraft carrier operations. It is 22 pages long.
« Last Edit: 08/23/2013 10:42 PM by Blackstar »

Online Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11187
  • Liked: 2631
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: The secret history of the U-2
« Reply #39 on: 08/23/2013 10:40 PM »
Is there any likelihood that further examples could still be constructed?

I have no direct data on this, but I am pretty sure that more U-2s could be constructed if there is a requirement for them. The basic airframe is pretty simple and requires nothing exotic. Lockheed Martin has also been involved in regularly upgrading and maintaining the aircraft and therefore has a lot of recent experience with it.

There is a current ongoing argument between USAF and Congress over the issue of high altitude reconnaissance. The USAF had plans to replace the U-2 with the unmanned Global Hawk. Around (I think) June 2011 the USAF had even announced that the Global Hawk was "critical to national security." Then in January 2012 the USAF announced plans to discontinue Global Hawk production and retire existing airframes and retain the U-2 in service. This led to some complaints from Congress about how the service could declare something "critical" and then determine that it was useless only a short time later. Admittedly, part of Congress' complaint is due to lobbying by the company that manufactures the Global Hawk. But that does not mean that they are wrong and that USAF has not done a very good job of supporting their decisions with data.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Hawk

This incident highlights something that seems to get lost on this forum when discussing space issues: just because an executive branch agency declares something to be so does not mean that it is so, and does not mean that Congress is automatically wrong to object to policy decisions. Congress does this a lot, challenging assertions made by the executive branch that are frequently made with little supporting data.


As an aside I wish that these documents could be put on a Kindle, make reading a lot easier. 

That would be nice, wouldn't it? The organization that made these documents available to the public for free is a non-profit institution. I am sure that they would appreciate your tax-deductible contribution to enable them to make more documents available. You could even suggest that they make them available on the Kindle. Here is where you can go to donate:

https://www.networkforgood.org/donation/ExpressDonation.aspx?ORGID2=222127884&vlrStratCode=y6quAyiljdzRlbuOp%2fjWe5OP0a0aRLa91L9R7WZEb39xoHCtDAVbIUb95b6TWaNu

Indeed, the researcher who obtained these documents and chose to share them with the public for free rather than keeping them for use in a book or article published on his own time would probably appreciate a donation as well. If you would like to give money to him via Paypal to express your appreciation for all his hard work, I can help arrange that.

Tags: