With all the talk this week about unmanned spy planes, we thought we’d visit the aircraft that has defined the genre for more than half a century now; the Lockheed Martin U-2 Dragon Lady. U-2s have been shot down plenty of times all over the world while flying some of the most important intel missions ever (Cuban missile crisis, anyone?). More than 50 years after they entered service, the U-2 continues to provide valuable intel over the battlefields of Afghanistan.
What many people don’t realize is that U-2s were actually flown off aircraft carriers in the 1960s. Yup, modified U-2s took off and landed from the carriers USS Ranger and USS America between 1964 and 1969. These weren’t just test flights to see if you could land a jet the size of a U-2 on a ship. U-2Gs and U-2Rs flew actual recon missions from the two carriers.
Click through the jump to see wild footage of a U-2G taking off and landing aboard the Ranger in in 1964. Notice how the Dragon Lady doesn’t use a catapult to take off from the ship, it simply uses most of the flight deck as its runway, similar to the way this KC-130 did aboard the USS Forrestal in 1963. I’ve got to say, the bicycle-wheeled Dragon Lady’s landings look even hairier than regular carrier traps.