U-2/TR-1 gallery 2

(U-2F image). The U-2E variant consisted of 18 U-2A and U-2B aircraft fitted with the Pratt & Whitney J75-P-13B engine and additional pod-mounted ECMs in the tail. In addition, they were fitted with a small fuselage spine electronics “canoe” fairing. This variant was used exclusively by the CIA. Four aircraft were modified to the U-2F variant, which had an inflight refueling equipment installed, with the receptacle mounted on the upper fuselage spine in the front of the dorsal canoe fairing. After some combat tests, the refueling equipment was dismantled, returning the aircraft to the standard U-2C variant.
(U-2G on USS Kitty Hawk image). From the U-2G variant, 2 units were made to carry out operational tests on aircraft carriers. An arresting hook was added, the landing gear was reinforced and large spoilers were added to dump lift on landings. After testing, these aircraft were returned to their original U-2C variant and transferred to NASA. It is believed that there were a few aircraft that were modified to the U-2J and U-2N variants with minor modifications regarding being able to operate on aircraft carriers, but these two variants have not been officially verified. Probably the aircraft of the J and N variants are the same that have subsequently been part of a variant known as U-2H, which had operational capacity from aircraft carriers as well as air refueling.
(U-2R image). By 1966, the U-2 fleet had been reduced due to constant use and some combat loses, so the Department of Defense requested Lockheed to build a new prototype and 12 aircraft in August. Thanks to this new request, the CIA took the opportunity to request Lockheed a set of improvements that would eliminate the problems observed in the U-2As. Among these improvements, a cramped cockpit, higher payload, better landing characteristics, greater range and improvement of the aircraft’s fatigue life were requested. All these requests were passed on to the Skunk Works design team, which ended up meeting expectations by creating a new aircraft based on the U-2A and designated as U-2R (R for Revised).
(U-2C & U-2R image). At the end of 1966 work began on the new prototype. The U-2C engine was maintained and the fuselage was lengthened in front and behind the wings going from 15.09 to 19.13 meters, allowing the installation of an enlarged cockpit with a zero-zero ejection seat, new ECM systems, a larger Q-Bay and space to install an arresting hook to be able to operate from aircraft carriers. In addition, the jet tailpipe was lengthened to reduce the infrared signature and the wingspan increased from 24.37 to 31.39 meters. A retractable leading edge stall strips and wing spoilers were installed on the wing to improve control at low speed during landings.
(U-2R image). The wing fuel tanks were expanded and folding wingtips for carrier operations were mounted. The wing was strengthened to accommodate larger wing sensors or support fuel super pods installed on the wing leading edge. All these structural improvements raised the weight from 10,870 to 18,573 kg so the landing gear had to be reinforced. The performance did not vary with respect to the U-2C, but the range was greatly improved as the new plane carried about 6,400 more liters of fuel, which increased the range by 2,475 km. This allowed the U-2R to fly from Beale AFB, California, to England, some 9,240 km away, on nonstop flights in about 14 hours.
(U-2EP-X image). The prototype of the new U-2R was presented in August 1967, entering service with the CIA at the end of 1968. In total, 14 new U-2Rs were built, mostly destined for the North Base of Edwards AFB, California, although some were sent to the USAF which used them mainly on missions over Vietnam. Two of the U-2Rs were transferred to the US Navy and were designated as U-2EP-X (Electronic Patrol-Experimental). These aircraft were part of the USS America carrier to perform qualification tests during 1969.
(U-2G on USS America image). In November 1969 Lockheed pilot Bill Park made numerous takeoffs and landings from the deck of the USS America carrier. During them, the U-2EP-X showed itself to be a stable aircraft during the approaches and thanks to its low approach speed it showed that it could make safe landings without using the arresting hook. In addition, the aircraft was able to take off without using the carrier’s catapults thanks to the high thrust of the engine, managing to take off with a deck run of only 100 meters. Due to the success of these tests, Lockheed developed a modification package that could be easily installed on any U-2R so that it could operate from any US Navy aircraft carrier. The package consisted of a tail hook, cockpit controls for the hook, and wing tip skid stabilizers.
(U-2R image). In addition to carrier operational qualification, the U-2EP-Xs were used to test different electronic surveillance equipment under development. A forward looking infrared (FLI) system, an AN/ALQ-110 electronic intelligence receiver, and a modified RCA X-band radar were installed in one of the aircraft, with which it carried out tests as a maritime reconnaissance aircraft. The other aircraft received an AN/APS-116 forward looking radar (installed in the nose), an FLI installed in a slipper wing pod and AN/ALQ-110 and an RCA X-band radar installed in the Q-Bay with the antenna mounted. in a radome under the bay. Again these trials were successful and Lockheed developed an anti-ship variant of the U-2R armed with the Condor missile, which was not accepted. After testing with the Navy, both U-2Rs were returned to the CIA.
(TR-1A image). Again, by 1977, the USAF fleet of U-2 aircraft had declined markedly due to accidents and wear and tear. A first contract was signed with Lockheed so that the production line could be reopened, since 10 years had passed since the last U-2R was delivered. Finally in 1979, production started again and more aircraft were manufactured. Externally, the new aircraft was exact to the U-2R, but the Department of Defense requested that the name of these aircraft be changed to one that more properly indicated the mission carried out, therefore, these aircraft were designated as TR-1 or Tactical Reconnaissance-1.
(TR-1A image). The initial order included two TR-1As and one ER-2 (Earth Resources Two), which was a special variant, without military equipment, intended for NASA’s atmospheric research. The ER-2 was delivered for testing in May 1981 and the TR-1A was delivered in August of that same year. These first two TR-1As were used for test flights, pilot training and evaluation of new systems. These new aircraft were basically similar to the U-2R, with the advantage of being able to use the most modern surveillance equipment of that time. After the mandatory tests, the USAF made a requirement for a total of 35 aircraft, 23 TR-1As, 2 TR-1B two seat trainers and 10 U-2Rs to replace the older U-2Rs. It is speculated that some of the aircraft in this batch may have been transferred to Nationalist China (Taiwan), British, Israelis and West Germans, but these suspicions have never been officially confirmed.
(U-2R image). Among the new equipment supplied to the TR-1A was the Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar System (ASARS) developed by Hughes and the Lockheed Precision Emitter Location Strike System (PLSS) pods, which had been developed and tested on the U-2R. The ASARS was installed in a new, longer bulbous nose that could be removed when not needed. This system produced a high resolution image of hostile targets without exposing the aircraft to enemy action since the radar allowed to see behind the edges of objects. The PLSS system is a passive emitter-locator installed in a “super pod” that was mounted on each wing. This system requires the joint work of three TR-1As that triangulate enemy radar emissions, and send them to a ground station so that it can locate the emitter and an attack can be planned.
(U-2S image). The current variant in service is called the U-2S, which are actually the TR-1A and U-2R built between 1981 and 1989 to which a new General Electric F118-110 turbofan was installed between 1994 and 1998. This engine is a derivative of those used in the B-2A bomber and the later F-16 fighter-bombers. The weight savings achieved with the new engine has improved range and allows sensors to be carried for different missions in a single flight. In addition, the new engine generates additional electricity for the new installed systems and has the capacity to generate more for future improvements. 31 aircraft were converted to this variant, of which 26 are currently in service (2022).
(U-2S image). The U-2S in service have a radio frequency SIGINT sensor and a Block 20 glass cockpit that were installed in 2001 and 2003 respectively. They also have a Raytheon Remote Airborne Sensor (RASR-1), an ALQ-221 combined warning radar receiver/ECM system and an ASARS synthetic aperture radar in the nose. In 2008, an ASQ-230 radio frequency signals intelligence suite system was installed and they also received the Dual Data Link 2 system and the Senior Year Electro-Optical Reconnaissance System (SYERS) multispectral imaging sensor. In the next years the U-2S will receive the new ASARS-2B radar, a new SYERS-2C electro-optical reconnaissance system and new electronic warfare and communications equipment under the new Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) program.
(U-2A image). Although the U-2 is not an aircraft developed exclusively for the CIA, when it entered service in 1956, it was this agency that controlled everything related to this program under code name “Dragon Lady”. President Eisenhower made it clear from the outset that the U-2s would not be piloted by the military in any case, and furthermore, it was preferable that the pilots were not even US citizens. This was intended to avoid the serious problem that could occur if one of the planes were shot down or suffered a breakdown over enemy territory and it turned out that a military pilot was at the controls. This could lead directly to a war during the difficult period of the Cold War.
(TR-1B image). Eventually the idea of hiring foreign pilots had to be abandoned due to language problems and lack of qualifications. The CIA had to recruit the pilots as “civilians”, so before signing a contract with the agency, they had to abandon their military career, which made the matter quite difficult. Furthermore, only pilots in reserve commission were chosen to facilitate their resign. The Air Force pledged to reinstate U-2 pilots with the same rank once their employment as CIA “drivers” had ended. The CIA was much tougher in selecting its U-2 pilots than the USAF, resulting in fewer accidents. Test pilot Tony LeVier was in charge of training the first 6 USAF pilots, who in turn trained other “civilian” CIA drivers. Everything had to be done by radio, since during the first 15 years of U-2 service there was no two seat trainer variant.
(U-2A image). From the moment they received the planes, the CIA began to call them “articles” to avoid a possible breach in the security system, since it must be remembered that the U-2 program was secret. The maiden flight took place on August 1, 1955 at Groom Lake and in January 1956 the USAF decided to have its own U-2s, ordering 31 units from Lockheed. In April, 8 operational test flights had been carried out over United States territory, so it seemed that the new aircraft was ready to carry out real missions. All the air bases received sealed orders on how to act in the event that a U-2 needed to make an emergency landing, as it happened on several occasions, before surprised witnesses who did not know what that mysterious black glider shape plane was with a pilot dressed like an astronaut. Of course, the main order was to put the aircraft in a hangar as soon as possible to avoid the curious stares.
(U-2C image). A committee was created with members of all the armed forces and representatives of the CIA, NSA, and State Department to make a list of missions for the U-2. These missions had to be later approved by the President, since all were carried out on foreign territory. The CIA invented a cover whereby U-2 aircraft belonged to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), and were used for high-altitude weather research. Some missions of this type were carried out and published in the press to give credibility to the cover, but in reality, very few believed the story. This cover was invented in the event that an U-2 fell into enemy territory, as would unfortunately happen years later.
(U-2C image). The first CIA U-2s were part of the 1st Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, Provisional (WRSP-1) and were known as “Detachment A”. In June 1956 it was sent to the Giebelstadt Army Airfield in Wiesbaden, without the approval of the German Government. Although President Eisenhower was not very convinced of flying over Soviet territory, he authorized 10 days of overflights in June 1956, since he was assured that the Soviet radars could not track the new plane at that height and that also, in case of If a plane fell, it was almost certain that the pilot could not survive. The conjectures about the Soviet radars were made based on the characteristics of the American radars, something that would be proven totally wrong.
(U-2R image). The first flight over hostile territory was made on June 20, 1956 over East Germany and Poland. The first flight over the USSR was made on July 4 under the name “Mission 2013”. At first, the President refused to authorize it, as there were reports that contrary to what the CIA believed, previous U-2 flights had been tracked by Soviet radars, but in response to the CIA’s stance of “bypassing” President Eisenhower, asking British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan for authorization, Eisenhower finally relented. On this first flight over the USSR the targets were the Leningrad Shipyards and the number of Myasishchev M-4 “Bison” bombers deployed. The question of long-range bombers had become an important issue, since it was made public that the USSR could have many more than the United States, which created great fear to the population, which baptized the issue as the “bomber gap”.
(U-2D image). The Soviets detected the U-2s as soon as they crossed the border of East Germany and informed the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who ordered his ambassador in Washington to send continuous protests to the State Department reporting a clear violation of Soviet airspace that was considered as an unacceptable provocation. Eisenhower ordered the flights to cease if the U-2s could be tracked, but the CIA assured him that the detections were not consistent and that Soviets had not even realized they had flown over Moscow and Leningrad. In addition, the pictures showed the futile interception attempts by the Soviet fighters, which sometimes caused so many contrails that they covered the ground below.
This situation lasted for several years, and despite Soviet diplomatic protests in the United States, the USSR did not publicize these U-2 raids, as this would have added discredit to the humiliation. On the other hand, the flights over Soviet territory worried Eisenhower, since he could not know how the American people would react if this flagrant violation of International Law became known. Of course, the Soviet complaints clearly demonstrated that they could track the U-2s so the President threatened to cancel the flights. In this point,the CIA started a program to make the U-2 less visible to radar. These first flights over the USSR at least cleared up the doubt about the “bomber gap” issue, showing that no Myasishchev M-4 Bison bombers were deployed at any of the nine bases that the U-2s had photographed.
(TR-1A image). The U-2s were deployed in Turkey in 1956, (framed in CIA’s “Detachment B”), during the Suez Crisis and witnessed the movements of troops as well as the Franco-British attacks on Egypt. For the next 4 years these aircraft were very busy controlling the Middle East area with a special interest in Israel. In fact, at this time it was quite frequent for Israeli fighters to go out to try to intercept these planes, with the same result as the Soviets, although the Israelis came to photograph the U-2s, being aware of the type of plane that flew over them with impunity.
(TR-1A image). Flights over the USSR were finally banned after the 10 days allowed in July 1956, but in September flights were allowed on the borders of Eastern Europe due to the Hungarian Revolution. In May 1957, some flights were allowed over Soviet missile and atomic installations, but under the personal supervision of Eisenhower, who even changed the flight routes of some missions. In June again, some more flights were made, in which important missile and space installations were discovered. However, from the end of 1957 to May 1960, flights over Soviet territory were canceled.
(TR-1A image). Despite the ban on flying over the USSR, Eastern Europe continued to be “run over” over and over again by U-2s, and the Soviets tried to locate and shoot them down without success. In 1958, a new engine was installed in the CIA planes that raised their operational flight height to 22,700 meters and in addition, the planes were painted in a blue-black color to help them blend into the darkness of space. But in this same year, the CIA learned that the Soviets had the complete technical details of the U-2, due to some kind of leak.
(TR-1A image). The successful launch of the Sputnik 1 satellite gave rise to the Soviets to boast of their technical advances in ICBM missiles, even claiming that they had one capable of hitting targets at 13,000 km distance with a 5 Megaton warhead. This aroused much concern in the United States, which calculated a Soviet advantage in the number of ICBMs of 3 to 1. This motivated that in July 1959, the President authorized a flight over the USSR and others of the ELINT type over the Soviet borders. Two flights were made from England in December 1959 and February 1960, but they did not help to determine whether the suspected Soviet advantage in missiles was true or not.




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