US ‘dragon lady’ spy plane lands at RAF base amid tensions in Ukraine

A high-tech US Air Force spy plane has landed at a British RAF base after completing an unknown mission. The U-2 ‘Dragon Lady’ spy plane landed at RAF Fairford as 30,000 NATO troops exercised on Putin’s doorstep.

The secret surveillance plane is a Cold War icon and boasts a range of specs that make it one of the stealthiest in the air. It can fly to an altitude of 70,000 feet, capturing images and intercepting signals intelligence, and is considered by pilots to be one of the most difficult aircraft to fly.

Due to the high altitude it can fly, pilots must wear compression suits and, when landing, rely on another pilot on the ground to guide them as they land on one wheel. Tens of thousands of soldiers from Europe and North America are currently training in arctic conditions in Norway as part of ‘Operation Cold Response’.

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The exercise is defensive and long-planned, and demonstrates NATO’s ability to respond decisively to any threat, regardless of direction. Around 30,000 troops from 27 countries, including close NATO partners Finland and Sweden, are taking part in the exercise, along with around 220 aircraft and more than 50 ships.

An elite group of Royal Marines are also part of the training exercise which, although timed and planned, sends a gentle reminder to Moscow of the consequences should the war spread west. Underlining the importance of the mission and remaining very diplomatic in the process, Operation Commander Yngve Odlo said, “This is a defensive exercise.

“This is not an offensive military operation.”

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Held every two years, the naval, air and land exercises take place over large areas of Norway, including above the Arctic Circle, and in sub-zero temperatures. They will, however, remain several hundred kilometers from the border between Norway and Russia.

Russia declined Norway’s invitation to send observers.

A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Oslo said: “Any increase in NATO military capabilities near Russia’s borders does not contribute to strengthening security in the region.”

A NATO statement reads: “Cold Response deals with a fictional scenario where Norway is attacked and NATO’s collective defense clause, Article 5, is invoked. Exercise Brilliant Jump 2022, NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force certification, is linked to Cold Response.

“NATO Allies are transparent in their exercises and honor their international commitments. Observers from all members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe were invited to Cold Response, but Russia declined the invitation.

“Norway has extended the observer registration deadline to March 23.”

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While it’s unclear whether the U-2 spy plane is part of the operation, the plane’s mere presence during the ongoing crisis in Ukraine is notable.

However, surveillance planes have long been used by Russia, the United States and their allies under the Open Skies Treaty, an agreement allowing unarmed spy planes to carry out missions throughout the territory of member countries. .

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