The U2 on the USS America


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The trials of the U-2R, using the deck of the carrier America, took place during the period Nov. 21-23, 1969, off the Virginia Capes. One of the pilots was Bill Park, a former Air Force fighter pilot and senior Lockheed test pilot. He was joined by four CIA pilots. The five of them underwent an abbreviated carrier training course and then flew the America trials.
Several more CIA pilots became carrier-qualified over the next few years, but the only significant event concerned a change in aircraft when the program went to the U-2R. The U-2R variant, which entered service in 1967, was 40 percent larger than the earlier U-2. It had twice the range and could carry a payload four times as large. The Navy aircraft had an arresting hook. The outer six feet of each wing folded back to facilitate handling aboard ship. The aircraft bore the fictitious Navy markings N812X.
Testers aborted the first landing attempt when they discovered that the ground crew had left the locking pin in the tailhook assembly. The rest were successful. In a report on the subsequent trials, Park said: "The airplane demonstrated good wave-off characteristics, and I felt at the time that landing could be made without a hook. We required very little special handling and even took the airplane down to the hangar deck. The outer 70 inches of the wings fold and by careful placement on the elevator we could get it in [the hangar] with no problem." For all that, the idea of the seagoing U-2 just never generated much enthusiasm. The official CIA history contends that the agency conducted no further U-2 missions from an aircraft carrier. It said: "Aircraft carriers are enormously expensive to operate and require an entire flotilla of vessels to protect and service them. The movement of large numbers of big ships is difficult to conceal and cannot be hastily accomplished, while the deployment of a solitary U-2 to a remote airfield can take place overnight."
A U-2R undergoes carrier qualifications on USS America in November 1969. By this time, the spyplane was 40 percent larger than earlier versions, but its wings folded up and it required little special handling on the carrier.
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Jan 21 2008