Type: High-altitude reconnaissance aircraft
First flight: 1 August 1955
1. The original U-2 was a reconnaissance aircraft designed to operate in the thin atmosphere above 55,000 feet where it could obtain hard intelligence into Soviet activities by penetrating Soviet airspace with impunity. It was designed and built in complete secrecy at the height of the Cold War. The yoke-configured cockpit, while unusual for a single-seat aircraft, was needed to allow the pilot easy reach while wearing a full pressure suit. Early U-2s had no ejection seat.
2. The older U-2 cockpit used traditional dials and a large “driftsight” telescope to help the pilot see the landscape below.
3. The U-2S’s “glass cockpit” uses modern displays and the latest electronics to keep the pilot informed.