Built in complete secrecy by Kelly Johnson and the Lockheed Skunk Works, the original U-2A first flew in August 1955. Early flights over the Soviet Union in the late 1950s provided the president and other US decision makers with key intelligence on Soviet military capability. In October 1962, the U-2 photographed the buildup of Soviet offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba, touching off the Cuban Missile Crisis. In more recent times, the U-2 has provided intelligence during operations in Korea, the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq. When requested, the U-2 also provides peacetime reconnaissance in support of disaster relief from floods, earthquakes, and forest fires as well as search and rescue operations.
The U-2R, first flown in 1967, was 40 percent larger and more capable than the original aircraft. A tactical reconnaissance version, the TR-1A, first flew in August 1981 and was structurally identical to the U-2R. The last U-2 and TR-1 aircraft were delivered in October 1989; in 1992 all TR-1s and U-2s were designated as U-2Rs. Since 1994, $1.7 billion has been invested to modernize the U-2 airframe and sensors. These upgrades also included the transition to the GE F118-101 engine which resulted in the re-designation of all Air Force U-2 aircraft to the U-2S.
Buddy Brown (Buddy is not a nickname it’s his real name) was one of a handful of men in the entire world to be picked to fly the U-2 and then the SR-71.
It would be an understatement to say he was a good pilot.
He experienced in his life critical historical moments. He took it all in stride, somewhat nonchalant about his achievements remembering to work hard and play hard.
Buddy was stationed in Alaska as a U-2 pilot where he became friends with a dentist, Dr. McCallum. McCallum made false teeth that were really decayed looking for the pilots to wear over their good teeth! At parties at the officers’ club the doctor would introduce them as the new U-2 pilots and then nonchalantly ask if the high altitude had in any way affected them.
Buddy and his pilot friends were almost always reply ‘’the ozone has really affected our teeth!’’
Then they would slowly smile…. showing off their bad teeth. This would always get a big response. ‘The teeth were so bad that people when they were talking to you would never look at you in the face again fearing that you would think that they were staring at your (fake) bad teeth!’ Brown recalls.
This is hilarious. This is an example of the caliber and personality of these extremely talented pilots. They were fearless and love to have fun.
Thank you to Lori Hudson Puente for sharing this with me.
Be sure to check out Linda Sheffield Miller (Col Richard (Butch) Sheffield’s daughter, Col. Sheffield was an SR-71 Reconnaissance Systems Officer) Facebook Page Born into the Wilde Blue Yonder for awesome Blackbird’s photos and stories.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force
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