With the huge armies of Communist Russia poised to provoke the Allies after the fall of Hitler’s Third Reich in 1945, the air forces of the Allied nations undertook top secret flights behind the Iron Curtain to gain intelligence about the true power of the Soviet Union. Operated by the Royal Air Force and the US Air Force, as well as by other Western air arms, these overflights were dangerous and sometimes fatal for the crews, but they were vital in determining how the West could stand up to the implied aggression from Moscow.
Barry Wheeler tells the story of these high-flying espionage missions, the fast camera-packed jets and ponderous signal-intelligence gathering aircraft that brought back the information, and the almost unsung heroes who defied the MiGs, battled to avoid the walls of AA-fire and sometimes succumbed to the guided missiles deployed against them.
Among the western pilots was Francis Gary Powers, shot down in his U-2 spy-plane near Sverdlovsk in May 1960, and the late Squadron Leader John Crampton who penetrated deep into Russia to search for bombers and rockets which could overwhelm NATO’s air defences. But the story is not one-sided. It also involves the Soviet Air Force and its attempts far and wide to probe western air defences and search for the ballistic missile-carrying submarines cruising deep in the seas surrounding the USSR.
68 pages softback