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The U-2 Incident abruptly ended the thaw An American U-2 spy plane was shot down in the USSR in May 1960 The Soviet Union captured the pilot Francis Gary Powers who confessed he was a spy Eisenhower accepted personal responsibility for the flight He admitted that U-2 planes had been flying over the USSR taking photographs for four years When the summit conference began on May 15 Khrushchev demanded that Eisenhower apologize for the U-2 incident Eisenhower refused and Khrushchev angrily canceled his invitation for the President to visit the USSR Vol X Part 1 FRUS 1958-60 E Europe Region Soviet Union Cyprus Before the U-2 became operational in June 1956 CIA project officials had estimated that its life expectancy for flying safely over the Soviet Union would be between 18 months and two years After over flights began and the Soviets demonstrated the capability of tracking and attempting to intercept the U-2 this estimate seemed too optimistic By August 1956 Richard Bissell was so concerned about the U-2s vulnerability that he despaired of its ability to avoid destruction for six months let alone two years To extend the U-2s useful operational life project officials first attempted to reduce the aircrafts vulnerability to detection by Soviet radars Project Rainbows efforts to mask the radar image of the U-2 not only proved ineffective but actually made the aircraft more vulnerable by adding extra weight that reduced its maximum altitude Because Soviet radar operators continued to find and track U-2s equipped with antiradar systems the CIA canceled Project RAINBOW in May 1958 Long before the failure of Project RAINBOW Richard Bissell and his Air Force Assistant 15 spaces had begun to look for a more radical solution to the problem of Soviet radar detection-an entirely new aircraft In the late summer of 1956 the two officials visited a number of airframe contractors in a search for a new ideas Among the more unusual was Northrop Aviations
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