Are spy planes still used?


Lockheed Martin's U-2 is the supreme, go-to spy plane for high-altitude reconnaissance.

Lockheed Martin's U-2 spy plane collects signals intelligence and photos
U-2 spy planes collect signals intelligence as well as photos


The ‘Dragon Lady’, first tested in the 1950s, is too valuable to retire. The U-2 has a single engine that can rocket the jet to 70,000 feet and - crucially - maintain that height. 


Lockheed Martin's U-2 spy plane collects signals intelligence and photos
The latest U-2 model is technically a U-2S


It’s also adaptable to modern technology - and the future is all about data: collecting it, processing it, and machine-to-machine sharing. About 30 U-2 spy planes are among the fleet at California’s Beale Air Force Base. 

Cockpit of a U-2 Spy Plane


U-2 Specifications


• Cruise speed 475 mph / 764 km/hr

• Length 63 ft / 19.2 m

Maximum weight40,000 lb / 18,144 kg

• Payload 5,000 lb / 2,268 kg

• Ceiling Above 70,000 ft / 21,336 m

Are spy planes still used?

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Lockheed Martin's U-2 is the supreme, go-to spy plane for high-altitude reconnaissance.

Lockheed Martin's U-2 spy plane collects signals intelligence and photos
U-2 spy planes collect signals intelligence as well as photos


The ‘Dragon Lady’, first tested in the 1950s, is too valuable to retire. The U-2 has a single engine that can rocket the jet to 70,000 feet and - crucially - maintain that height. 


Lockheed Martin's U-2 spy plane collects signals intelligence and photos
The latest U-2 model is technically a U-2S


It’s also adaptable to modern technology - and the future is all about data: collecting it, processing it, and machine-to-machine sharing. About 30 U-2 spy planes are among the fleet at California’s Beale Air Force Base. 

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FUN FACTS:


Bridge of Spies

Bridge of Spies is based on the imprisonment of downed U-2 pilot Gary Powers (played by Austin Stowell) which led to a US-Soviet spy swap on Germany’s Glienicke Bridge.


Lockheed Martin's U-2 spy plane collects signals intelligence and photos
A U-2’s reconnaissance photos over Cuba in 1962 revealed Soviet medium-range ballistic missiles


Dragon Lady

‍ • The U-2 earned its nickname ‘Dragon Lady’ because it is difficult to operate. Pilots typically fly 90% of their mission within five knots (9 km/h) of the ‘stall speed', the minimum steady speed where the U-2 is controllable.

Skunk Works

• The U-2 was secretly designed at Lockheed’s ‘Skunk Works’, so-named because it was based in a former distillery that reeked of sour bourbon mash, much like the moonshine factory in the Li’l Abner comic strip.

Cockpit of a U-2 Spy Plane


U-2 Specifications


• Cruise speed 475 mph / 764 km/hr

• Length 63 ft / 19.2 m

Maximum weight40,000 lb / 18,144 kg

• Payload 5,000 lb / 2,268 kg

• Ceiling Above 70,000 ft / 21,336 m
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