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Nicknamed the Dragon Lady, the Lockheed U-2 first flew in 1955 from Groom Lake (known as Area 51) and has been in service ever since flying with a variety of organisations during its life including the USAF, CIA, NASA, and the Republic of China Air Force (Taiwan). The U-2 is a high-altitude aerial reconnaissance aircraft which was originally developed to spy on the USSR. The U-2 has also been used for scientific research and most recently to monitor balloons over US airspace. The U-2 was not infallible, and some were shot down by Russian surface to air missiles, the most famous being Gary Powers in May 1960. In addition, the RAF proved that the U-2 could be intercepted by fighter aircraft after successfully intercepting one at 65,000ft on more than one occasion during trials using an English Electric Lightning.
The USAF fleet of U-2 Dragon Ladies are now all home based at Beale AFB in California however their squadrons operate aircraft around the world from forward operating bases. The 99th Reconnaissance Squadron operates two detachments one at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus and the other here at RAF Fairford where two aircraft are based.
The 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron will be providing one of their RAF Fairford based U-2S for static display at this year's Air Tattoo. Photo Credit: Duncan MacKellar