Published October 05, 2015
DAYTON, Ohio -- The Lockheed U-2A on display in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
DAYTON, Ohio -- Lockheed U-2A at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Lockheed U-2A in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Lockheed U-2A (U.S. Air Force photo)
In complete secrecy, a team headed by Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson at Lockheed's "Skunk Works" in Burbank, Calif., designed and built the U-2 to fly surveillance missions. With sailplane-like wings suited for the thin atmosphere above 55,000 feet (over 70,000 feet for later models), this single-engine aircraft made its first flight in August 1955. Entering operational service in 1956, its use remained secret until May 1, 1960, when a surface-to-air missile shot down a civilian-piloted U-2 on a reconnaissance flight over Soviet territory.
One of the most important U-2 missions took place on Oct. 14, 1962, when a U-2 piloted by Maj. Richard S. Heyser obtained the first photographs of Soviet offensive missile sites in Cuba. Eight days later, Maj. Rudolf Anderson Jr. was killed on a similar mission when his U-2 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. U-2s have also been used for programs as diverse as mapping studies, atmospheric sampling and collecting crop and land management photographic data for the Department of Energy.
The aircraft on display at the museum is the last U-2A built. During the 1960s, it made 285 flights to gather data on high-altitude, clear-air turbulence and in the 1970s it flight tested reconnaissance systems. Delivered to the museum in May 1980, it is painted as a typical reconnaissance U-2.
Engine: Pratt & Whitney J57-P-37A of 11,000 lbs. thrust (J75-P-13 of 17,000 lbs. thrust for later models)
Maximum speed: 494 mph
Range: 2,220 miles (over 3,000 miles for later models)
Click here to return to the Cold War Gallery.
Please note Springfield Street, the road that leads to the museum’s entrance, is undergoing construction through the beginning of September. Expect lane reductions and some delays. Please follow the signs and instructions provided by the road crews.
Additional information about our COVID precautions available here
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is located at:
1100 Spaatz Street
Wright-Patterson AFB OH 45433
(near Dayton, Ohio)