(Barré) #1
Big changes in the U-2  eet started
occurring in 1981 with the introduction of
the TR-1A (TR – Tactical Reconnaissance).
This specialised Dragon Lady was designed
for European NATO requirements, with
specialised sensors to pinpoint battle eld
stationary and moving targets in real-time
with the Advanced Synthetic Aperture
Radar (ASARS II) and thus was not wired
to perform the numerous other missions of
the more capable U-2R. By 1989, 25 TR-1As
and three two-seat TR-1Bs had been built
and deployed, requiring a separate training
squadron at Beale to deploy pilots to RAF
Alconbury. There was also an in ux of U-2R
pilots to meet the demands of growing OLs
and dets. The new two-seat TR-1Bs (later
becoming TU-2Ss) had become our primary
trainer and the ornery U-2CTs put out to
pasture after decades of service.
The year went extremely fast and was
highlighted by lots of  ying in both the U-
and T-38 companion trainer. I also took
command of Det 5 at Patrick AFB, Florida,
for a month that left Bubba running the show
back at Beale.

In May 1990, I was called into the wing
commander’s office and offered the command
of the 99th SRS. It was the proudest moment

of my military career and I gratefully accepted.
I fully understood my responsibility to lead by
example and care for the 35 pilots, six staff
officer mission planners and seven non-
commissioned support officers as well as their
families and did not accept that charge lightly.
While many new duties fell under my
purview, the most important was assuring
that every Dragon Lady pilot that I sent to
one of our detachments for a 70-day tour
was con dent of his abilities, trained to the
highest standards and understood the unique
dangers associated with each location.
Piloting very long duration missions in a
pressure suit, in the most valuable single-
seat national asset in existence, required
excellent physical and mental health, intense
concentration and instant decision-making
abilities not common to all pilots. Maintaining
high morale, despite hazardous deployments
approaching 285 days a year, was a cinch for
the ‘drivers’ who lived to  y, but could become
problematical for the wives and girlfriends left
behind. Communications before the advent
of Skype and smartphones were limited to
‘snail-mail’, leaving me as a single point of
contact, should problems arise on the home
front. When this happened, they were often
settled by arranging a secure encrypted
telephone chat for the couples in my office
over the ‘Bat-Phone’.

I was also the preferred contact
of the detachment commanders
when a problem occurred that
I could take directly to the wing
commander, bypassing bureaucratic
red tape from higher headquarters
while garnering important support
from the ‘Wing-King’. Whether it was
equipment or personnel problems, I had the
boss’ ear a minimum of  ve days a week at
daily stand-up meetings and weekends as
needed. It often seemed that these informal
lines of communication got results quicker
than through the chain of command.

By the time I took my post in the 99th,
the Berlin Wall was crumbling, along
with the realisation that the mega-billions
spent on TR-1 production, hardened
hangars, operational facilities and family
housing at Alconbury were no longer
needed to defend the eastern front.
Due to this turn of events, the TR-1s
were cycled back to the US through the
Skunk Works to metamorphose into
U-2R models. Extra hangar space was
constructed at Beale to accommodate
the in ux of airframes.
Prior to work starting in 1994 on a new
variant, rumours were rife of an upgraded
version which would become the U-2S.
This was welcome news to all the dets, as
they were notorious for amassing hours
on airframes with nine-plus hour missions
commonplace. Their locations each met a
strategic need, with some much harder on
the airframes and engines than others, so
the news of a revamped U-2 was met with
great anticipation.

20 Aviation News incorporating Jets November 2018

The Iraq/Iran border as seen from altitude over the right super pod and wing tip. Jeff Olesen

A Senior Span-equipped U-2R returns to King Fahd AB in Taif, Saudi Arabia, following a
12-plus hour mission during Operation Desert Shield. Note the extensive antenna array on
the underside of the fuselage. Author’s Archives
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