“Spy balloon” from China: U-2 “Dragon Lady” as a triumph of the USA

The U-2 “Dragon Lady” was already legendary during the Cold War. Now the US machine was apparently on a diplomatically sensitive mission again. The developers at Lockheed Martin would certainly never have thought that their U-2 “Dragon Lady” would one day take off for espionage flights over the USA. The special aircraft was conceived in the 1950s to fly over the Soviet Union at extremely high altitudes and scout out its nuclear program. The legend of the Cold War was never discarded and has now apparently proven itself again – in action against the Chinese “spy balloon”, which has just flown over the USA at an altitude of a good 20,000 meters. Before an F-22 fighter jet shot down the balloon with a missile off the coast of South Carolina over the Atlantic on Saturday, the US Air Force sent two of its U-2 “Dragon Lady” after the foreign object, as the trade magazine ” The War Zone” now citing its own sources. “We don’t know exactly what the U-2’s job was, but it makes sense to use them,” writes the magazine. “The ‘Dragon Lady’ is the only aircraft in the US military that can even fly higher than the balloon.” Spy balloon was 61 meters high Altitudes of up to 21,300 meters are no problem for the U-2, and that was probably not their only one Trump against the balloon. Packed with cameras, sensors, radar systems and jammers, it resembles a manned spy satellite: “The U-2 is superbly equipped for electronic warfare,” writes The War Zone. “If she flew over the balloon, she could potentially block its communications with the satellites in space.” The two “Dragon Ladies” may also have been able to take detailed pictures of the balloon before it was shot out of the sky. The balloon was 61 meters high and probably weighed as much as a small airliner, the US military said after the launch. The object first appeared over Alaska, then flew over Canada and re-entered US airspace via Idaho. For several days, the balloon drifted southwest over the US, sparking significant diplomatic tensions between Washington and Beijing. China claimed it was a weather balloon and criticized the launch. More balloons have since appeared over Latin America. It was not the first diplomatically sensitive mission for the U-2. When the U-2 caused a scandal, to the anger of the Kremlin, the newly developed US aircraft were able to cross the skies over the Soviet Union undisturbed for almost four years. It was not until May 1960 that the Soviet air defenses succeeded in shooting down a U-2 for the first time with a newly developed missile. Ironically, the US government of Dwight D. Eisenhower initially tried to cover up the failed spy flight as a weather observation. The following day, however, Soviet television presented the wreckage of the U-2 and also showed pilot Francis Gary Powers, who Washington had believed dead. Kremlin boss Nikita Khrushchev unsuccessfully demanded an admission of guilt by Eisenhower and canceled a planned meeting out of hand. After the embarrassing incident, the USA relied more and more on spy satellites and the faster SR-71 “Blackbird”, which was also developed by Lockheed Martin. The incident did not mean the end of the “Dragon Lady”. In October 1962, for example, the aircraft helped to document the stationing of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba. No end in sight for the U-2 The nervous game of the Cuban Missile Crisis led to a phase of détente in the Cold War after its dramatic climax. The US is said to have spied on the Chinese nuclear weapons program in the 1960s with the help of their U-2. Even after the Cold War, there was always a use for the high-flyers. In March 2011, for example, a U-2 flew over Japan to measure the damage after the great earthquake and subsequent tsunami. In Iraq, the U-2 was still helping in 2017 to spy on the positions of the terrorist militia “Islamic State”. The Pentagon has apparently not yet put the U-2 out of service and completely replaced by reconnaissance drones.

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