U-2 Dragon 80-1085
As part of an airframe rotation U-2S Dragon 80-1085, flying as Dragon 51, arrive at RAF Fairford to refuel and for crew rest before continuing its journey to its operating base to the East. Despite its age the U-2 is still an important reconnaissance asset and has survived several attempts to retire and replace it. The SR-71 Blackbird was designed to replace it after Gary Powers was shot down over Russia in a U-2. The SR-71 with its higher maximum altitude and ability to exceed Mach 3 gave it the ability to operate over areas with an advanced air defence network where the U-2 couldn’t but the high cost of operating it saw it retired twice; the second and final time in 1998. The U-2 continued to provide a reconnaissance capability after the SR-71 had been retired and was due to be replaced this time by a UAV, the Global Hawk, but development of the Block 30 Global Hawk was stopped in 2012 and the out of service date for the U-2 is currently set for 2023 (not bad for an design that first flew in 1955!).
You can see on the underside of the wings ice from the high (60,000 feet) altitude they fly at.
U-2 Dragon 80-1073
U-2S Dragon 80-1073, flying as Dragon 21, was the airframe returning from the East on its way back to the US.
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