Lockheed U-2: everything you've ever wanted to know

In the 2021 special publication Spyplanes, Bob Archer detailed one of America's most notable and famous spy planes, the high-flying Lockheed U-2

On June 20, 1956, a Central Intelligence Agency Lockheed U-2 undertook the first overflight of Eastern Europe. The pioneering sortie was the first of many which initially photographed important areas of Eastern Bloc nations, comprising the satellite states of the Soviet Union. These included Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Romania, all of which were equipped with the latest Soviet hardware, and therefore key targets for western intelligence gathering.

U-2S 80-1070/BB flies above the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, California. The aircraft is configured with a raft of antennas, an interchangeable nose and under wing slipper tanks housing advanced sensors, and an elliptical radome atop the centre fuselage housing Senior Span and Senior Spur satellite datalink systems.
U-2S 80-1070/BB flies above the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, California. The aircraft is configured with a raft of antennas, an interchangeable nose and under wing slipper tanks housing advanced sensors, and an elliptical radome atop the centre fuselage housing Senior Span and Senior Spur satellite datalink systems. US Air Force/SSgt Robert Trujillo

Sixty-five years later, on February 10, 2021, a descendant of the first U-2 flew a sortie from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, to RAF Fairford, England on the first stage of its flight back to the United States for maintenance.

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