Hunt for the U-2...

...Interceptions of Lockheed Reconnaissance Aircraft over the USSR, Cuba and People's Republic of China 1959-1968, from Helion Books via Casemate

Title:  Hunt for the U-2

Author: Krzysztof Dabrowski

Publisher:  Helion Books

ISBN:  978-1-913118-68-6

I still find the U-2 a fascinating subject, and this new one from Helion Books is helping feed my interest. Not the current service models, but the early ones, when still operated by the CIA as well as the USAF. With the narrow fuselage and long narrow wings, it has the looks of a glider in many ways, other than the big jet engine at the back of course. Most notable for the main undercarriage under the fuselage and having stabilisers fitted under each way that drop away on take off, and needing to be replaced thanks to a chase car once it has landed again, before it can taxi off the runway.
After a useful Introduction, the book is then divided into 9 sections which tell us the story. At the start, reconnaissance flights by RB-57 aircraft (a US built version of the Canberra) and these could be shot down by manned fighters and the then new SA-2 SAMs (Surface to Air Missiles). This sets up the two sides, the Rivals. Then we get to the first overflights by the high-flying U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, over Russia and the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). Of course it details the route and the events of the U-2 flown by Gary Powers, which was successfully shot down over Russia. His character has become better known to modern audiences thanks to the film, 'Bridge of Spies'. As well as missions over Russia there were others over Cuba and even France is mentioned. There were also missions flown by Taiwanese pilots over the PRC, thought these did result in 4 U-2s being brought down and their wreckages put on display. In addition to the stories of the U-2 flights themselves, including some route maps, it tells us about the efforts that Russia and the PRC put into trying to get manned interceptors to get high enough to attack them, but without the success of the SAMs. Accompanied by maps, plenty of archive photos and some neat colour profile artwork this is a book which will interest the aviation enthusiast/historian and the modeller for the references it provides. It also tells us more about these missions which were kept so secret to the public at the time.
An interesting read and I like the balance of looking at it from both sides in these years of the Cold War rivalries. Even the political tensions between Russia and the PRC come into play.

Distributed by Casemate Books, who kindly provided my review copy.

Robin