Old Design, Young Airplane By Over the years, the U-2 has been improved and modified many times. Several different models used a wide variety of sensors and cameras. The U-2 was even studied at one point for use on aircraft carriers to extend its range. The most visible change to the U-2 was the introduction of the U-2R in 1967. Its 103-ft. wingspan was 23 feet wider than earlier U-2s, and it had a more powerful engine. The U-2R significantly expanded U-2 range and endurance and gave pilots more cockpit room, allowing them to wear full pressure suits that were more comfortable than earlier partial pressure suits. Other U-2R improvements included better electronic navigation equipment. The versatile U-2's name has also changed to reflect its varying roles. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) calls it the ER-2 (for "Earth Resources" scientific research). During the later part of the Cold War, U-2s based in Europe were called TR-1s (Tactical Reconnaissance) to reflect their ground-force support role and to ease our allies' discomfort with "spy planes" based in their nations. Lockheed made 104 U-2s of all models from 1955 to 1989, including two ER-2 versions for NASA. The U-2 continues to play a vital intelligence role. U-2s provided much of the targeting information used in Operation Desert Storm; in post-Cold War conflicts in the Balkans, U-2s provided evidence of mass graves linked to war crimes. In Afghanistan and Iraq, U-2s have used the latest electronic equipment and satellite links to deliver instant information to forces anywhere in the world. The U-2 continues to be a valuable asset to the USAF, and will likely remain so for years to come. Click here to return to the U-2 Overview. Find Out More Related Fact Sheets Lockheed U-2A David Clark S-1010A Full-Pressure Flying Suit David Clark MC-3 Partial Pressure Flying Suit Note: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the National Museum of the USAF, the U.S. Air Force, or the Department of Defense, of the external website, or the information, products or services contained therein.