Dragon Lady at war

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Originally designed in the early 1950s to overfly the Soviet Union in an effort to learn about the Soviet’s nuclear weapons programs, the U-2 is still hard at work, now helping to identify IED threats in Afghanistan and listen in to Taliban communications.

Smile... you're on Candid Camera

One of those things, improbably enough, is that even from 13 miles up its sensors can detect small disturbances in the dirt, providing a new way to find makeshift mines that kill many soldiers.

In the weeks leading up to the recent offensive in Marja, military officials said, several of the 32 remaining U-2s found nearly 150 possible mines in roads and helicopter landing areas, enabling the Marines to blow them up before approaching the town.

Marine officers say they relied on photographs from the U-2’s old film cameras, which take panoramic images at such a high resolution they can see insurgent footpaths, while the U-2’s newer digital cameras beamed back frequent updates on 25 spots where the Marines thought they could be vulnerable.

4 thoughts on “Dragon Lady at war”

  1. I watched one take off from Moffet field in Oakland back in 78 or 79. It was an amazing sight. That bird started rolling, and after only a few hundred yards it lifted up, and then kept on going at a phenomenal angle until it was out of view.

  2. The U2 was such a delicately balanced aircraft at altitude that the slightest movement could put it out of trim and knock it out of the air. Accordingly it had a unique split film camera system consisting of two cameras side-by-side, but with spooling motors of left camera at opposite ends to the right one so that torque wouldn’t put ac out of trim–sort of like counter-rotating twin propellers. One strip spooled/wound forward, the other wound aft.Thus imagery of one read just opposite or the other–had to turn the prints around to match and study them–came in 2 long, 24-inchx10or12 inch strips, IIRC. No in-flight, beamed digital read-out in my Cro-Magnon days..

  3. Yeah, Ben Rich’s book about the Skunk works had a lot of good gouge on stuff like that.

    The speed window between stall and mach buffet was very slim, as little as 5 knots.

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