This Week in EUCOM History: April 30 - May 6
May 1, 1960 -- U.S. U-2 spy plane shot down over Soviet Union
On May 1, 1960, a United States U-2 spy plane was shot down in the airspace of the Soviet Union. The incident happened fifteen days before the scheduled opening of an East–West summit conference in Paris.
Air Force Captain Francis Gary Powers left the US base in Peshawar, Pakistan, on a mission with the operations code word GRAND SLAM to overfly the Soviet Union, photographing intercontinental ballistic missile sites in and around Sverdlovsk, Mayak and Plesetsk, and then land at Bodø in Norway.
Soon after the plane was detected in Soviet air space, Soviet Air Force Lieutenant GeneralYevgeniy Savitskiy ordered the air-unit commanders "to attack the violator by all alert flights located in the area of foreign plane's course, and to ram if necessary."
Because of the U-2's extreme operating altitude, Soviet attempts to intercept the plane using fighter aircraft failed. The U-2's course was out of range of several of the nearest surface-to-air missile sites, and one SAM site even failed to engage the aircraft since it was not on duty that day. The U-2 was eventually brought down near Degtyarsk, Ural Region, by the first of three SA-2 Guideline (S-75 Dvina) surface-to-air missiles.
Capt. Powers successfully bailed out and parachuted to safety. He was captured soon after. Powers carried with him a modified silver dollar which contained a lethal, shellfish-derived saxitoxin-tipped needle, but did not use it.
The SAM command center was unaware that the plane was destroyed for more than 30 minutes. One of the Soviet MiG-19 fighters pursuing Powers, piloted by Sergei Safronov, was also destroyed in the missile salvo. The MiGs' "identify friend or foe" (IFF) transponders were not yet switched to the new May codes because of the May 1 holiday.
A close study of Powers' account of the flight shows that one of the last targets he had overflown was the Chelyabinsk-65 plutonium production facility. From photographs of the facility, the heat rejection capacity of the reactors' cooling systems could have been estimated, thus allowing a calculation of the power output of the reactors. This then would have allowed the amount of plutonium being produced to be determined, thus allowing analysts to determine how many nuclear weapons the USSR was producing.
The Four Power Paris Summit between president Dwight Eisenhower, Nikita Khrushchev, Harold Macmillan and Charles de Gaulle collapsed, in large part because Eisenhower refused to accede to Khrushchev's demands that he apologize for the incident. Khrushchev left the talks on May 16.
Find more articles tagged with:
More than 100 Airmen and three C-130J Super Hercules cargo aircraft from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, deployed to enhance bilateral defense ties with Polish armed forces members during a scheduled aircraft rotation to the U.S. Air Force Aviation Detachment in Poland.
U.S. Special Operations Command Europe celebrated the 59th Anniversary of SOCEUR, Jan. 22 at Patch Barracks.
The Michigan National Guard celebrates their 20-year partnership with Latvia with a look back at how the partnership started and and some milestones along the way.
On April 24, 2013, the A-10 Thunderbolt took flight over Grafenwoehr Training Area’s impact area for the last time.
Visitors from around the world swarmed the small town of Bastogne, Belgium Dec. 15-16 as part of the 35th Bastogne Historic Walk. Many participants traded their modern-era clothing for the olive-drab garb that U.S. troops wore here 68 years ago.
Ted Penn, a quartermaster in the 685th Air Materiel Squadron, who returned to RAF Alconbury Nov. 13 - the first time in 67 years - to discover the installation in a far different state than when he left it in October of 1945
At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the Great War ends. At 5 a.m. that morning, Germany, bereft of manpower and supplies and faced with imminent invasion, signed an armistice agreement with the Allies in a railroad car outside Compiégne, France.
Following nearly two weeks of protest and political instability in Hungary, Soviet tanks and troops viciously crush the protests. Thousands were killed and wounded, and nearly a quarter-million Hungarians fled the country.
In a televised speech of extraordinary gravity, President John F. Kennedy announces that U.S. spy planes have discovered Soviet missile bases in Cuba. These missile sites—under construction but nearing completion—housed medium-range missiles capable of striking a number of major cities in the United States, including Washington, D.C.
Airmen supporting Combined Endeavor 2012 celebrated the U.S. Air Force’s 65th birthday with representatives of approximately 40 nations and multinational organizations during a cake cutting ceremony Sept. 18.