the U2

The U-2

CIA – Air Force


Soviet air defense was aggressive

April 8, 1950 – USSR shot down a US Privateer over Baltic
Autumn 1951 – USSR downed a Twin-Engine Navy Neptune bomber
June 13 1952 – USSR allegedly downed a RB-29
Also scattered reports from Britain and Turkey
After USSR backed N. Korea fear of USSR expansion grew


Civilian or Air Force?

After many letters the decision for who to run development came from president Eisenhower who instructed that if a uniformed test pilot was captured in USSR in peacetime problems would arouse so a civilian team was called for development.


I would like to note that this segment in many reports was covered with black marker
You try to read a sentence blacked out like this s and understand it.

The Team

James R. Killian, Jr.
Director of Scientist --- President of MIT

His team of engineers worked no more that 50 feet from the assembly line. Problems were recognized and fixed in a few hours of draft productions.

The Place

Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development facility in Burbank, CA
AKA Skunk Works

The Plane:

The design called for a lightweight aircraft for ultrahigh flight.


The long tail was bolted to the body was only 3 bolts. This design was similar to a sailplane, which is also known for its lightweight.


The wing spar went through the fuselage.

The panels were bolted to the side of the fuselage. (Sailplane)

Amazingly the wings where integrated fuel tanks keeping almost all of the U-2’s fuel.

Nose and Landing Gear

The nose was curved upwards to keep stabilized during wind gusts. (Sailplane) The landing was a complex set of bicycle like gears that weight 208 pounds but had the capability to withstand the touchdown of a 7-ton aircraft.


After developing 2 cameras each too large or too heavy a camera a camera was then developed using 3 mirrors and a prism to meet the size and weight requirements of the


One of the first partially pressurized suits for high altitude flight was developed for specifically for the U-2. The cockpit kept a constant pressure 28,000 ft. This was at an outside pressure of a ‘window cracking’ 70,000 feet or more. If the pressure suddenly decreased the suit would automatically inflate and administrate oxygen to the pilot.

(Blood boils after 65,000ft)


The CIA called on the vice president of Shell Oil Co. to make a low-volatility, low-vapor kerosene fuel. A fuel with the boiling point of 300°F


I wish I could fly like an eagle to the see fly like and eagle like my spirits carry me I want to fly. Right into the future … I want to fly again.

Over flights:


The first over flight of the U-2 was over Leningrad. Its target was to observe ship and submarines at bay. The Soviets caught glimpses of the U-2 but never accurately recognized the neither plane nor flight path. The USSR sent a letter to the White House describing the detection a Twin-Engine Navy Neptune bomber over USSR. The USSR was grossly wrong in the description of the U-2 and could not sustain the U-2 on radar for more than a few seconds. Nevertheless Eisenhower closed all over flights


Eisenhower later renewed the U-2 program. But after taking pictures of Yerevan, USSR, The aircraft malfunctioned, and was forced to return to base.

In another flight a pilot nick-named the ‘Lemon Drop Kick’ was to fly over Bulgaria. The reason he was called that was because he always sucked on lemon hard candies during flight. But on that day the solider suiting him up put a L-pill in his pocket, unknowingly with the hard candies. L-pill being a suicide pill filled with potassium cyanide. He took off and started to eat his candy. He felt one of the pills had no flavor. Without biting into it he removed his faceplate and spit it out. The pilot was fine, but a thin glass coating away from death.

More flights over the USSR west border were conducted with target cites and testing areas.

Operation GRAND SLAM, the last over flight

The flight was the first transit over the Soviet Union, all previous flight flew halfway in then turned around and retraced it’s flight.

The flight would have been sooner, but the weather did not permit it. So CIA asked for more time. President Eisenhower demanded that no flights to be made after May 1, 1960 because of the scheduled Paris