The Cold War presence at British bases of US SR-71 and U-2 reconnaissance aircraft has been well-documented. Less so, however, is the UK’s direct involvement in their intelligence-gathering efforts
In the late 1970s the Cold War was taking a downturn: a huge Warsaw Pact re-equipment programme, decisions to deploy cruise and Pershing II nuclear weapons, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and smouldering tensions in Poland. US and NATO commanders wanted intelligence on these developments and emerging contingencies. Part of the solution was to forward-deploy exotic ‘black’ reconnaissance aircraft, like the Lockheed U-2 and SR-71, and the UK became a major operating location.