Very interesting A-12 / SR-71 video with bonus oddball U-2D content

If you’re interested in spaceflight and aviation but you don’t follow Scott Manley on YouTube, you’re missing out. He posts a lot of interesting and informative videos about current aerospace projects going on. He also gets into some of the more interesting technical history of aviation and spaceflight on occasion. Here is a fascinating video talking about the A-12, the SR-71 and the differences between them. It is well worth 10 minutes of your time.

Is it weird that after watching this video I got sucked into the rabbit hole of trying to figure out what was up with the U-2D that barely gets mentioned? It turns out it is a two seat U-2, but not a trainer. This is the first that I heard of a non-trainer 2 seat variant of the U-2. It turns out that according to Wikipedia there were 17 variants of the U-2 that were produced, though some of them were conversions of existing airframes to the new variant. There were even some U-2's produced that were aerial refueling capable and carrier capable which I also wasn’t aware of. I knew they converted a couple to be carrier capable for testing purposes (U-2G). Reading a little closer there was only one U-2H produced, but it was carrier capable and aerial refueling capable.

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A Lockheed U-2F being refueled by a Boeing KC-135Q Stratotanker.
Photo: USAF (Wikipedia)

Check out the highlights listed for Bob Schumacher, the Lockheed test pilot whose name appears on the left side of the U-2D:

  • Took off from aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, in a U-2C model, on 5 August 1963. The aircraft was able to take off in 321 feet, without the use of the catapult. Bob made several carrier landing approaches that day
  • On 29 February 1964, Bob made the first U-2 landing on the aircraft carrier USS Ranger in a U-2G model, which was equipped with a spoiler and a tail hook

If you’re ever in the Palmdale area, the Air Force Flight Test Museum and the Blackbird Airpark Annex have some pretty impressive inventory listed. I’m not sure how much is currently on display, but a quick glance at Google Earth showed a pretty neat collection at the Blackbird Airpark. Some of the pictures even showed a YF-117, though it appears that is currently in a hangar for restoration.

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