The Lockheed U-2, nicknamed “Dragon Lady”, is an American single-jet engine, ultra-high altitude reconnaissance aircraft operated by the United States Air Force (USAF) and previously flown by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It provides day and night, high-altitude (70,000 feet; 21,000 m), all-weather intelligence gathering. The U-2 has also been used for electronic sensor research, satellite calibration, and communications purposes.
Early versions of the U-2 were involved in several events through the Cold War, being flown over the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, and Cuba. In 1960, Gary Powers was shot down in a CIA U-2A over the Soviet Union by a surface-to-air missile (SAM). Another U-2, piloted by Major Rudolf Anderson, Jr., was lost in a similar fashion during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
The U-2 is one of a handful of aircraft types to have served the USAF for over 50 years accompanied by aircraft such as the B-52. The newest models (TR-1, U-2R, U-2S) entered service in the 1980s. The current model, the U-2S, received its most recent technical upgrade in 2012. They have taken part in post–Cold War conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and supported several multinational NATO operations.