#1479 U-2S Dragon Lady
Squadron Prints Lithograph No. 1479 - 80-1083, U-2S Dragon Lady, 1st & 99th Reconnaissance Squadron, 9th Reconnaissance Wing, Beale AFB, California. On August 1st, 1955, a Lockheed Skunk Work's team headed by the renown Kelly Johnson developed a prototype aircraft, designated Article 341. She rolled down a newly constructed runway at a secret Nevada installation called Groom Lake. While performing a high-speed taxi, test pilot Tony LeVier became aware that the aircraft was actually airborne as he reached a speed of 70 knots. Forcing the aircraft back to earth and with brakes on fire, he rolled to a stop on the desert runway. Only 5 weeks later, the U-2, a unique high altitude aircraft, reached its initial design altitude of 65,000 feet. Thus began the remarkable story of the Article known as the U-2, nicknamed the Dragon Lady. Today's U-2 is a much different aircraft than its early predecessors, with a glass cockpit and state-of-the-art sensors, nothing can match the reconnaissance capability of the U-2. However, one thing that has not changed in the last 50 years is the professionalism and dedication of the men and women who fly and maintain this remarkable aircraft. With a range beyond 70,000 feet, the pilot must wear a full pressure suit, and with a range beyond 7,000 nautical miles and sorties exceeding 10 hours, the U-2 is recognized as the most difficult and physically demanding aircraft to fly in the Air Force inventory. The U-2 brotherhood is composed of a small group of handpicked, highly skilled volunteer pilots. Sometimes it is like dancing with a Lady, and at other times it's like wrestling with a Dragon. Today's U-2 provides continuous day/night, high-altitude, all-weather combat operations in direct support of U.S. and coalition forces. So, at anytime, day or night, somewhere around the globe a U-2 is airborne on the edge of space - alone, unarmed and unafraid.