Lockheed U-2 "spy plane"
Airfix
models 1/72

U-2  in 1/72 scale : Airfix kit review & modelling report
 

During the Cold War the vast unknown Soviet Union land led to an urgent surveillance need by the USA. At that time, the only way was to fly over Soviet land and beyond missile reach was at extremely high altitude of some 70,000 feet.
This needed a whole new type of aircraft. Proposals for such an aircraft were made by several aircraft companies and also by Kelly Johnson of Lockheed in 1953. Kelly made a design that featured a very high aspect ratio wing and a sort of F-104 derived fuselage with a single engine that could accommodate advanced high resolution camera's.
   u-2
The design looked like a sail plane with a simple undercarriage and one pilot in a pressure suite. Kelly's design was rejected by the USAF but as the CIA urgently needed the aircraft it was approved by president Eisenhower that the CIA would operate the aircraft.  Lockheed got thus in 1954 a contract
under the CIA project name AQUATONE that eventually would become the U-2. It had a covert budget and was a big secret. Built at the Lockheed "Skunk Works" at Burbank with misleading NACA markings, the aircraft had to tested at a remote site. A former nucleair test desert seemed a good remote choice and Groome Lake in the Nevada desert was selected. This area was referred to ironically as "Water Town" and the U-2 aircraft the "Angel" to be under full CIA covert control. A complete facility was constructed at Groome Lake within a few months and personnel selected and screened "at top secret level". Technicians, pilots and other support personel for the "Angels" stayed on the desert Groom Lake site with few leasure facilities only at the "Paradise ranch". Personel transfer flights were made to Las Vegas and Los Angeles using DC-3, C-54 and large cargo planes were used as well.
The first flight U-2 referred to as "article 341" was August 1, 1955 piloted by LeVier as the plane accidently popped briefly into the air during a high speed run on the dry lake. Followed was a hard landing and had to be repaired. Several "angels" were used for testing and getting the systems operational, all in secrecy at Water Town, e.g Groom Lake site
that eventually would grow to become "Area 51" . Most had bare metal finishes and NACA markings as covert. If seen in any case by the public, the sail plane was "to study cosmic rays...".
The U-2 could be fitted with several payload packages, not only advanced camera packages developed by several companies in secret but also various radar detectors, listeners and air sniffers.
The single pilot needed hours prior to a flight breath pure oxygen O2, wear a special suite and fully closed face mask. A complete U-2 with its equipment could be transported in a single C-124 Globemaster to small fields all over the World such as Japan, Pakistan, West Germany, Norway.
From July 1956 U-2 flights started from Wiesbaden West Germany and other fields of high altitude flights over the Soviet Union. These were top secret and on May 1, 1960 an U-2 flown by Gary Powers that departed out of Peshawar Pakistan to fly to Norway over mid Russia was shot down half way the mission by a Soviet SA-2 missile. Powers made a crash landing but survived. A large public trial was held but three months later Powers was "exhanged" for the Soviet spy Abel.

The U-2 was difficult to fly but was good for its mission, could photographs thousands of square miles on a single flight and was crucial for U.S. information gathering to estimate the Soviet arms and numbers for decades.
Some 48 U-2A were built and flown at times from fields all over the World. It was later eventually also operated by the USAF with the name "Dragon Lady" and several specialist versions including a much larger TR-1 were developed with a grand total of some 100 U-2/ TR-1 manufactured until 1989.

   


box u-2 airfix

Airfix released a 1/72 kit of the Lockheed U-2 in 1983 as kit #04028. 
It is a very nice kit, with only before that vacuforms being available. The U-2D was an IR detection version. 

Though panel lines are raised, it can be made into a nice kit. I tried to keep these raised lines.
content

airfix u2
The instructions are typical Airfix and a bit unclear in places. Schemes for 2 U-2 with decals are provided with a peculiar one being half black/ half metal. Kit decals are for 3 schemes.
decals

The kit was made straight out of the box in no time.
Intakes take some work and putty to fix. Enamels were airbrushed with silver lower areas and black. Some details were added in the cockpit from scrap.

u-2
The canopy hood was set open. Note the "remove before flight" ribbon.

up

u-2

side
References:
- X-planes, Jay Miller, AeroFax publ.
- U-2 spyplane, Squadron Signal publications #1086, Larry Davis
- 75 years Skunk Works, James Goodall, Osprey publishing, 2021
 

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Created this page January, 2005