Military Review

U-2 reconnaissance aircraft retires

Since 2011, the Pentagon has been regularly reducing its costs. So, 4 March 2014, the public was presented to the draft military budget departments for the 2015 fiscal year. In addition to reducing the number of ground forces, this document contains information on the complete write-off of A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft and U-2 Dragon Lady strategic reconnaissance aircraft. And if the first one is soon enough replaced by multi-functional F-35 Lightning II fighter jets (at least in the plans), then the whole era will disappear with the latter. The reconnaissance aircraft U-2 is a true symbol of the Cold War, which is well known throughout the world, including in the former Soviet Union.

History emergence

The history of the strategic reconnaissance aircraft U-2, which also received the nickname Dragon Lady (synonymous with the Russian "iron lady" if literally translated - "dragon"), begins its report almost simultaneously with the beginning of the Cold War. After the famous speech in Fulton, the appearance of the term “iron curtain” of the United States simply needed an aircraft that could conduct reconnaissance on the other side of this curtain, while remaining inaccessible to Soviet radars, fighter-interceptors and air defense systems. In 1953, the command of the American Air Force announced a tender for the design and construction of a reconnaissance aircraft that could fly at altitudes up to 21,3 thousands of meters and had a combat radius of at least 2,8 thousand kilometers. The height of the flight was taken by chance, at that time the most high-altitude aircraft in the composition of the Soviet Air Force was the MiG-17 fighter, which could rise to an altitude of 13,7 thousands of meters.

It is curious to note that applications for participation in this tender were received from small design bureaus, which, according to calculations of the US military, could fully concentrate on working on a reconnaissance aircraft project. It is also curious that the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation made the US military an unofficial proposal outside the scope of the announced tender. In a short time, the company was able to present the CL-282 aircraft - it was a lightweight version of the aircraft without arms, the landing gear, which has a long wing, like a glider. The aircraft received a J73 jet engine, which he got from the F-104 Starfighter fighter. The car first took to the air at the start of the 1954 of the year and showed everyone that it can reach a height of thousands of meters in the 21,3.

U-2 reconnaissance aircraft retires

And although the company Lockheed presented a very interesting concept with an eye to the future (the company's specialists were not mistaken, their plane turned out to be a long-liver), the military met him without much enthusiasm. The project of a single-engine aircraft that did not have armor and weapons did not inspire them. Help unexpectedly came from the CIA, which in 1954 supported the project by believing in it. At that time, the CIA did not have its own reconnaissance aircraft, agents were forced to seek help from the US Air Force.

As early as March of 1955, Lockheed received a contract from the CIA for the creation and production of 20 reconnaissance aircraft, which were to be created on the basis of CL-282. It should also be noted that President Eisenhower gave the project the green light, knowing full well the delicacy of the tasks performed by the aircraft. The President of the United States did not want American military aircraft to invade Soviet airspace; this could have caused the outbreak of a major war, which most likely would have been the last in human history. At the same time, according to American law, the CIA was considered a civilian, not a military organization.

Design Features of Lockheed U-2

The U-2 strategic reconnaissance aircraft was created to carry out deep penetration into the territory of a potential enemy in order to collect various reconnaissance information. The prototype U-2 made its first flight in August of the 1955 of the year, and already in the 1956 of the year, deliveries of production aircraft began. The aircraft was distinguished by a magnificent set of technical characteristics and an excellent layout, which allowed the car to fly at high altitude, ensured a long range and became the guarantor of its durability.

The Lockheed U-2 reconnaissance aircraft was designed according to the normal aerodynamic design and had a mid-range trapezoid wing of high elongation. He was equipped with a fuselage, made by the type of monococcus with a bearing skin. The scout fuselage was all-metal. To reduce the mass of the aircraft, it was decided to equip the tandem bicycle-type chassis (one landing gear with twin wheels in the nose and tail of the car). In this case, the brakes were only on the nose of the chassis. Chassis equipped with solid tires. Immediately before taking off the plane, special auxiliary drop wing landing gear were installed. Also in the tail of the fuselage in a special compartment hinged brake parachute.

On the sides behind the wing of the aircraft were located brake air flaps that opened forward. The steering surfaces of the reconnaissance aircraft were equipped with trimmers. The tail plumage was also all-metal and was made free-carrying. On some airplanes the ventral keels were installed. Each of their consoles of the wing of the reconnaissance aircraft was turned into a two-section tank in which the fuel was stored, the reserve stock was located in the forward part of the U-2 fuselage. Subsequently, already in 1957, the aircraft acquired additional fuel tanks, which were secured under its wing.

An interesting fact is that Shell Oil has developed special fuel for this aircraft. The company's engineers created a fuel mixture that was characterized by a high boiling point, which made it possible to apply it at very high flight altitudes. This fuel received the official designation of JP-7. JP-7 fuel was characterized by low vapor pressure and low volatility, that is, it evaporates badly during high-altitude flights at low atmospheric pressure. A curious detail is that the development of fuel for U-2 Dragon Lady was carried out by a division of Shell Oil, which was responsible for the production of repellents. In 1955, the company's capacity released several hundred thousand gallons of this fuel (1 gallon - 3,79 liters), so focused on the production of JP-7, that at this point in the United States there was a significant shortage of repellents.

The reconnaissance plane made a “bicycle-like” landing, balancing with its long wings almost until the moment of a complete stop, especially since its landing speed was rather small. After that, the plane touched the runway with one of its wings, thus finding the third point of support. In order to prevent the wings of the aircraft from being damaged during the landing, their ends were made in the form of special sleighs or sleds, as they were also called, made of titanium alloy.

For the sake of reducing take-off weight, the designers of the aircraft seriously sacrificed the structural strength of the machine. The reconnaissance aircraft was designed only for small loads - up to 2,5 g. This was significantly lower than the requirements for military aircraft. In order to successfully withstand strong gusts of wind when flying at an altitude of about 10 thousands of meters, the aircraft needed to fly with a small cabrirovanie, that is, slightly raising his nose. In addition, having sacrificed the durability of the fuselage machine, the designers had to abandon the acceptable for the pilot level of pressure in the cockpit when flying at high altitudes.

Pilot U-2 was forced to make his flight, dressed in a special high-altitude suit, which is connected to the life support system. The development of this space suit involved the company David Clark Company. It was at this time in the US that the technologies that were used in the future in the space program were worked out in practice. Engineers needed to think not only about how to protect the pilot at a high altitude, at which nothing alive can exist, but also about how to give the pilot the opportunity to eat, drink, and also to cope with his natural needs. One of the finds, which was invented at this moment were the "space" tubes of food.

Debris shot down U-2, exhibited in the Central Museum of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation

There were other difficulties. Due to the fact that the plane had an elongated nasal shape and the spacesuit in which the flight was during the flight, at the time of take-off and landing, he could not fully see the runway. To solve this problem, U-2 Dragon Lady was constantly accompanied by a special car of the airport service. For these purposes, used sports models that could reach speeds of 250-270 km / h. From the cabin of the car, the co-pilot gave instructions to the U-2 take-off pilot.

In addition, the constructive advantages of the aircraft turned for pilots difficulties with its control. For example, between cruising speed at maximum altitude and stall speed there was only a very small “gap”, pilots called it “grave angle”. During the tests of the aircraft, the 3 pilot was killed because of him, with many other air incidents ended without casualties. A number of similar exotic features of the design was the price paid for the unique characteristics that the high-altitude reconnaissance had.

U-2 retires

By unveiling the 4 in March of the military budget project for the 2015 fiscal year, the United States also presented the option of replacing U-2 aircraft with unmanned aerial vehicles of the same purpose. According to published information, the operation of a Lockheed U-2 aircraft flight hour costs the US budget thousands of dollars in 32, while the aircraft themselves, developed as early as the 50 years of the last century, are already outdated. At present, the Pentagon is planning to use the RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV for reconnaissance purposes, the cost of one flight hour which costs the budget less than 24 thousands of dollars.

The latest version of the aircraft - U-2S

It is curious that earlier the military was in no hurry to part with the Dragon Lady, they wanted to extend the life of the 32 aircraft in service at least until the 2023 year. However, these plans were blocked by Congress in 2012. At the same time, it was decided to purchase another Global Hawk 3-drones. The creator company, Lockheed Martin, also acts in defense of its aircraft, and is still engaged in their maintenance and modernization. According to the company's specialists, in the near future, the US Air Force will not have an adequate replacement for these aircraft, since the RQ-4 UAV, after all the modifications, will be able to match Lockheed U-2 no earlier than the 2020 year. At the same time, the company is developing a new reconnaissance UAV, which has the designation RQ-180. Tests of this drone began last year.

In addition to the purely financial aspects, which, apparently, play a major role in the decision to write off all U-2 Dragon Lady reconnaissance aircraft from the service, there are other reasons. So the command of the US Air Force states that the use of drone RQ-4 will help reduce the potential number of losses in possible military conflicts. During the Cold War, a number of U-2 aircraft were shot down, which sometimes resulted in the death of a pilot. In addition, in favor of the drone says an increase in the duration of obtaining intelligence information, in other words, the duration of the flight. The U-2 reconnaissance aircraft is able to be airborne for up to 12 hours, while the RQ-4 can spend up to 36 hours in the sky. At the moment, there is still the possibility that the US Congress will not decide to write off reconnaissance planes from the service, but the chances of this are becoming more and more slim every day. In the face of fairly tough (by American standards) cuts in military spending, the Pentagon hopes to focus its attention on higher-priority defense projects.

Flight performance of the U-2S (still in service):
First flight - 1954 year.
Dimensions: wingspan - 31,4 m, length - 19,2 m, height - 4,9 m, wing area - 92,9 square. m
Dry weight - 7260 kg, maximum take-off weight - 18 600 kg.
Powerplant - 1 GE F-118-101, 86 kN.
Maximum speed - 805 km / h.
Flight range - 9600 km.
Flight duration - about 12 hours.
Practical ceiling - 21 336 m.
Crew - 1 people.

Information sources:
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  1. uzer 13
    uzer 13 12 March 2014 11: 32
    U-2 actually worked out its own. Long gone are the days when enemy fighters could not get it. Yes, and a lot of trouble with it. But the A10 is a useful aircraft. If only with spare parts problems appeared.
    1. Andriuha077
      Andriuha077 12 March 2014 17: 01
      Will the old U-2 destroy the latest Global Hawk?
    2. The comment was deleted.
  2. fennekRUS
    fennekRUS 12 March 2014 12: 06
    Good article. Concisely, popular. Plus
    1. Mister X
      Mister X 12 March 2014 20: 30
      Quote: fennekRUS
      Good article. Concisely, popular. Plus

      And also with humor:

      In 1955, the company's facilities produced several hundred thousand gallons of this fuel, focusing so much on the production of JP-7 that at this point in the United States there was a significant shortage of repellents.
      Author Yuferev Sergey

      Apparently this deficit was reflected in the psyche of the entire American nation: after all, there was nothing to poison mosquitoes, ticks and moths.
      And everyone believed that this was the machinations of the Bolsheviks.
      Indirectly, yes. And nefih ...
  3. Mazadrive
    Mazadrive 12 March 2014 12: 27
    How many nerves he patted our Air Force. Plus.
  4. Kornilovets
    Kornilovets 12 March 2014 14: 58
    How old is in the sky ...
  5. Fiero
    Fiero 12 March 2014 15: 02
    Do not many states have drones in percentage terms?
  6. dmitrij.blyuz
    dmitrij.blyuz 12 March 2014 16: 14
    The machine, at one time a masterpiece, of course. But, I, too, lagged a little behind life! It seems these Pepelians were removed back in '88. If not so, I apologize. I let you down, however. It's a pity.
    1. 0255
      0255 12 March 2014 18: 22
      this SR-71 was removed in 1989, due to the high cost of their maintenance, possibly due to the appearance of the newest then MiG-31 air defenses in Soviet aviation, but after the "Desert Storm" they were returned to service, and then again removed from service ...
      1. dmitrij.blyuz
        dmitrij.blyuz 12 March 2014 19: 16
        Uh! I almost asked about this. About SR-71 and MiG-31 I am in the know.
        1. Nayhas
          Nayhas 12 March 2014 23: 30
          Quote: dmitrij.blyuz
          Uh! I almost asked about this. About SR-71 and MiG-31 I am in the know.

          U-2 continued its life in the form of TR-1 and after U-2S, which were equipped with the latest reconnaissance equipment, i.e. with this, the U-2 has only one name in common in a way, the design, the fuselage was lengthened, and new engines were installed. Oddly enough, the Global Hawk is much poorer in terms of equipment (smaller dimensions and more fuel is used for fuel). TR-1 / U-2S worked both in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is undoubtedly a clear-sky plane, but with its provision the machine is indispensable. U-2S is the latest modification of the aircraft, a small description:
          All equipment is installed in a removable nose fairing (it differs in shape depending on the type of equipment), in a large fuselage compartment (“Q-bay”) behind the cabin (where large cameras are located), in small compartments in the lower part of the fuselage and in two removable large containers on the wing. The sensors include a large number of electronic intelligence tools, synthesized aperture radars for acquiring an image of an object, PLSS radars for ensuring the operation of high-precision weapons, as well as high-resolution cameras. Recorded information can be transmitted to the ground via a special channel. At least three U-2 aircraft carry a Senior Spen satellite communication system in the teardrop-shaped dorsal fairing, which allows transmitting the received information to anywhere in the world in real time.

          Well, the pictures:
          Placement of reconnaissance equipment (open via right mouse button)

          Cockpit (open via right mouse button)

          Well, the car itself in all its glory

          1. studentmati
            studentmati 12 March 2014 23: 45
            Quote: Nayhas
            Well, the car itself in all its glory

            Russia should have answered (as usual).

            And she answered!

            1. Andriuha077
              Andriuha077 13 March 2014 00: 51
              Quote: studentmati
              And she answered!
              And further!

              Project of high-altitude aircraft-detector M-67, variant "Cruiser" LK-M.
            2. The comment was deleted.
            3. Nayhas
              Nayhas 13 March 2014 09: 17
              Quote: studentmati
              Russia should have answered (as usual).

              Actually the USSR.
              Quote: studentmati
              And she answered!

              M-17/55 Geophysics is the long-term suffering of the Myasishchev design bureau for U-2 which never became a scout. So this is not an answer, but an unsuccessful attempt.
  7. 52
    52 12 March 2014 16: 29
    The article is good, in its own way "festive fireworks" of that era of aircraft construction, when Mach 3 is not the limit, and the ceiling of 25 km is not a dream, but a line in those tasks, and the wing can change sweep, and the titanium airplane is not "weak" ! And no mega computers - just a flight of thought and healthy technical adventurism. Incidentally, the U-2 did not flap its wings! He is a monoplane and can only "wave" consoles - learn the materiel! And one more sad comment - this year the MiG-25rb, apparently, will make their last flights ...
  8. samoletil18
    samoletil18 12 March 2014 16: 57
    It is a pity.
    It is a pity that they shot down a little. Only 2 pieces.
    1. 52
      52 12 March 2014 17: 35
      Yes, not a couple! Cuba, the USSR, China in tender love with Taiwan ... Moreover, the anti-aircraft gunners of China opened a winning account!
      1. samoletil18
        samoletil18 12 March 2014 18: 31
        This, if in the offset S-75 - all 5 are shot down by this complex. And according to the results of the social competition, the USSR - China (2: 3).
    2. The comment was deleted.
    3. Andriuha077
      Andriuha077 12 March 2014 18: 29
      7 October 1959 years in China.
      May 1 1960 year shot down in the Sverdlovsk region. Explosives have always been on these planes. Undermining was carried out a few minutes after the bailout. But Powers was informed before departure that the explosive would explode without delay when the catapult was launched.
      9 of September 1962 of the Chinese calculation of S-75 air defense systems in the Nanchang area
      27 October 1962 years in the area of ​​the city of Banes (Cuba)
      Xnumx november xnumx year chinese
      7 July 1964 year Chinese
      Xnumx january xnumx year chinese
  9. navigator
    navigator 12 March 2014 17: 45
    The article is good. And what a plane! It’s a pity this past era. With the same pleasure you take apart the performance characteristics of squadron battleships and battleships.
  10. fregina1
    fregina1 12 March 2014 18: 25
    We’ll drop it like that ... N.S. Khrushchev
  11. Mister X
    Mister X 12 March 2014 20: 34
    At the same time, the company is creating a new reconnaissance UAV, which bears the designation RQ-180.
    Author Yuferev Sergey

    The RQ-180 seems to be Northrop Grumman's development, and Lockheed Martin developed the RQ-170 Sentinel.
  12. sivuch
    sivuch 13 March 2014 00: 06
    PS 2 legends downed
    In fact, more
    9 September 1962
    Chen Huai Sheng in U-2 6711, art. # 378 (ROCAF) is shot down by SA-2 missile, 15 Km south of Nunchang. Sheng survived bailing out but died later in hospital (AC)
    October 27 1962
    Maj. Rudolf Anderson shot down by SA-2 over Cuba; Anderson was killed when scrapnel punctured pressure suit causing suit to decompress at altitude, posthumously awarded Air Force Cross (PH)
    Jul 7 1964
    U-2G # 362 is shot down over Southern China, ROCAF Pilot: Lt. Col. "Terry" Lee Nan Ping is killed (AC)
    January 10, 1965
    U-2 6691 / # 358 is shot down southwest of Beijing, PRC. Major "Jack" Chang broke both legs in the ejection. He was released in 1983 with Yei. (AC)
    February 1965
    Everyone knows about Powers
  13. Andrey Yuryevich
    Andrey Yuryevich 13 March 2014 08: 21
    in Sverdlovsk on the "FAN" I saw a piece of cladding in a museum at a part ...