Lockheed Martin U-2S | A “Dragon Lady” in Akrotiri

Defence Redefined
Published on 21/05/2020 at 18:19

Royal Air Force(RAF) base in Akrotiri is known to be used in addition to the British one and their allies, specifically the United States. The United States has storage facilities for U-2S spy aircraft, which belong to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing of the US Air Force. Various documents from previous years have confirmed that the RAF base in Akrotiri in recent years has hosted two U-2Ss, spy planes which take off from Akrotiri toward war zones mainly in the Middle East.

© David Cenciotti

On the occasion of yesterday’s flight recording of the valid ItaMilRadar on the return of the Lockheed Martin U-2S spy aircraft ( also known as “Dragon Lady”), at RAF Akrotiri, we present the legendary aircraft. U2 (original model) starred during the Cold War, culminating in its 1960 shoot-down by the Soviets. Following the shoot down the pilot Francis Gary Powers was arrested. The shooting and the events that followed were the script for the 2015 drama film, Bridge of Spies, starring Tom Hanks.

The Lockheed Martin U-2S Dragon Lady is a single-engine jet aircraft, all-weather  high-altitude intelligence surveillance reconnaissance (ISR) of the United States Air Force (USAF). It can reach altitudes of more than 70,000 feet and its pilots are equipped with a special suit due to the high pressure.

© Stuart Spicer

According to the manufacturer, its unique and modular design allows the addition of the latest sensors and equipment to the aircraft quickly in a cost effective way. 

©Lockheed Martin

The state-of-the-art multi-role U-2S, which has been modernized since 2012, has a wide range of multi-spectrum and long-range sensors and can easily operate in and around disputed areas, cooperating with the 4th and 5th generation aircraft and systems such as the F-35. Lockheed Martin provides ongoing support to the USAF 24/7/365 for these aircraft, whose mission success rate is 97%!

© Lockheed Martin

The U-2S Dragon Lady  is 19.2 meters long, 5.09 meters high and has a wingspan of 31.39 meters. It can carry a payload of 2,268 Kg and has a range of 9,600 km (6000 mi).

© Lockheed Martin

The US Air Force currently has 30 U-2Ss aircraft, 4 of which are training aircraft. The U-2S has to follow a special but dangerous, as it can be described, landing procedure. Due to its design it does not have wheels on the wings but only on its main body making balance difficult this way. High-performance vehicles follow the aircraft during landing transmitting critical information to the pilot via radio, as you can see in the video here:

On December 7, 1977, an accident which occurred during the landing of a U-2 resulted in the death of the pilot Squadron Leader Robert Henderson and of 5 civilians (including 4 Cypriots) working at the Akrotiri base.

The U-2 is one of the few types of aircraft that has served the US Air Force for over 50 years, along with the Boeing B-52 and Boeing KC-135.

Also read: “Hercules” aircraft refuels a CH-53K helicopter in the air | VIDEO




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