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Geriatric Cold War Spy Plane Still Kicking 12 Miles Above North Korea

Written by on Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

The military forces of the world are all racing to improve, pushing contractors to develop more advanced aircraft than their competitors. This drive is basically the origin of fighter “generations,” with each new wave of jets bearing technology so advanced that it is in a completely different category from its predecessors.

Sometimes, an aircraft is so reliable and effective that it can continue to complete missions decades after it was first invented. The U-2 spy plane, with its black coat and distinctively long wings, is proving that it can still compete with the newer spy planes, even though the model is almost 50 years old.

When tensions began to spark during the Cold War, surveillance and spy technology became a priority for the US government. The U-2 spy plane was developed as a way to observe the Soviet Union from a great distance. U-2 aircraft are capable of flying at extremely high altitudes, and with the use of a long-distance camera a U-2 pilot can gain crucial intelligence about the enemy. Its absurdly high cruising altitudes (as high as 70,000 feet, or about 13 miles) make it essentially impossible to intercept, difficult to track, and grants surveillance over a much wider area. U-2 planes can even spy on other aircraft, which are forced to cruise at much lower altitudes.

Since the 1950s, the US has employed a number of much more advanced, high-tech spy planes. Even as the technology advances, buy valium generic though, the U-2 has remained an extremely reliable aircraft. Now, almost 60 years after the U-2 spy plane was developed, the US is using it to peak over the DMZ and spy on North Korea.

The truce with North Korea ended the conflict, but it did not remove US influence from the region. The US keeps about 28,000 troops stationed with our allies in South Korea and serve to stabilize the region and protect its inhabitants. Pilots are flying U-2 planes out of South Korea bases to spy on their neighbors to the north, a job that has become increasingly important with the recent government instability.

The use of the U-2 in North Korea proves just how committed the US is to maintaining surveillance of North Korea. The U-2 is notoriously difficult to pilot and requires special considerations for every flight. Pilots must undergo conditioning with pure oxygen before flights so that their bodies can handle the extremely high altitudes, and they must eat their meals through straws during the long flights. Even as they land, they require a powerful chase car to follow behind the landing plane at about 120 mph, communicating with the pilot how close the plane is to the ground.

The U-2 spy plane may be ancient compared to its much younger descendants, and it certainly presents difficulties to pilots, but the U-2 is still one of the most effective spy planes on earth today.

If you want advice about the world of military aviation, there’s no better people to turn to than men and women who have sat in the cockpit and flown some of the world’s most advanced aircraft. With over 50 current and ex-warfighters on call, Strike Fighter Consulting Inc. can give you access to up-to-date, first-hand technical and tactical expertise.

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