Sunday, 21 June 2015

U2 Spy Plane In "Unusual Incident"

Recently, stumbled upon a couple of large databases of American military and intelligence publications which have been declassified by their “originating agency”, or, more formally, their “Office of Primary Responsibility” (OPR). One item I came across is a modestly laid out 9 page point-paper document which lists various events and milestones of the United State Air Force’s (USAF) proud 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing (9th SRW) for the year 1982. Titled “CHRONOLOGY 1982 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing”, the document is a tabulated list with applicable dates on the left-hand side of the page, and events in the middle-to-right-hand side. Typical entries include things like “5 Mar  The 9th and 100th Wings participated in a joint Short Sprint readiness exercise” and “16 April The Joint Chiefs of Staff decided to continue Operating Location – OF at Patrick AFB, Florida indefinitely”. Important stuff most would agree, no? What then do we make of this entry on page 7 which states:

“9 Oct   A detachment 4 U-2 on a higher headquarters mission experienced an unusual incident”.

The meaning of the phrase “unusual incident” is unclear. Whatever happened, it involved a flight of the famed U-2 high altitude reconnaissance spy plane, which, at the time, was evidently flying with Detatchment 4 of the 9th SRW. Terms like “unusual and incident”, especially when placed together, are sometimes a euphemism for sensitive issues that a higher headquarters would certainly prefer not to be widely known. It could be anything from a freakish mechanical issue to an unexpected missile threat. It also could be a UFO sighting. Such events have frequently been, in USAF documentation, described as unusual incidents” before. Only a declassification of 9th SRW records, or those of that 14th Air Division, its parent unit at the time, will shed light on whatever happened. The actual items worth looking, should they still exist, include “CIRVIS Reports”, “Mission Results Summaries”, “Critical Airborne Hazard Forms”, “Foreign Aircraft Encounter Reports”, “Post-Landing Spot Intelligence Briefs”, “Command Chronologies”, and so called unit-level “Lessons Learned” papers. That's quite a myriad of cumbersome, and likely incomplete, physical paperwork to have looked at through the FOI Act or other archival access avenues. Below is an image of the page in question.

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