The US Air Force’s U-2 ‘Dragon Lady’ spyplanes have played a key intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance role over Syria and Iraq since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve, as Babak Taghvaee recounts.
U-2 in the Middle East
Sixty-three years after its first flight, the U-2 – in its latest U-2S iteration – serves with three squadrons of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing (RW) at Beale Air Force Base, California. Today, the USAF operates 28 single-seat U-2S and four TU-2S trainers, which are allocated to the 1st, 5th and 99th Reconnaissance Squadrons (RS) of the 9th RW. As well as their home base of Beale, the ‘Dragon Lady’ fleet is forward-deployed to Osan Air Base in South Korea, Al Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.