Skip to comments.Deployed U-2 pilot achieves rare feat of 100 combat missions
Posted on 03/31/2010 6:27:46 PM PDT by mylife
Deployed U-2 pilot achieves rare feat of 100 combat missions
by Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
3/15/2010 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- For Maj. William Gottenberg, he's been helping the Dragon Lady breathe a lot of fire lately. The 16-and-a-half-year Air Force veteran and pilot recently achieved 100 combat missions in the U-2 in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.
"It's a good feeling because it's an awesome mission and the fact that I was able to have the opportunity to come out here enough to get the chance to get 100 is great," said Major Gottenberg, a U-2 pilot with the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron at a non-disclosed base in Southwest Asia. "It's the best flying job in the world as far as I'm concerned."
Major Gottenberg joined the Air Force as new lieutenant in 1983. He stayed on until the Persian Gulf War in 1991, then left flying his RC-135 aircraft in the military to flying Boeing 747s for a civilian airline.
"After what happened on Sept. 11 (2001), I decided to volunteer to come back on active duty," said Major Gottenberg, who is deployed from Beale Air Force Base, Calif. "I was accepted back on active duty about a year after Sept. 11. I came back to the RC-135, flew that for three more years, and then came to U-2 and that's what I've been flying ever since."
Lt. Col. Kirt Stallings, 99th ERS commander who is also deployed from Beale AFB, said the major's accomplishment is just that - "a major accomplishment."
"One hundred sorties in the U-2 is a big deal," Colonel Stallings said to Major Gottenberg and a gathering of people immediately after the major completed his mission March 9. "A thanks from me and from everybody for your contributions not only from our aspect of the war, but also for the effort supporting the men and women downrange. You have done a lion's share of work here so thanks very much for everything you have done."
When he stepped down from the U-2 after his 100th combat mission, Major Gottenberg said he wasn't expecting all the people who waited to greet and congratulate him because to him it was just another mission in the sense that "it's about the people he's helping on the ground."
Also, when he's flying at 70,000 feet on a combat mission looking at the curvature of the Earth, he's not lost in thought but rather tightly focused on the mission of the day. When he's "on station" at his target location, he said the focus becomes even more intense.
"Well, to be honest, the time flying goes by really quickly once I get on station and we start doing the job the U-2 does," said Major Gottenberg, whose hometown is Rocklin, Calif. "I think the most impressive thing to me is the fact that the airplane transforms itself from a really neat flying machine into a lethal weapons system. On a combat mission, we'll spend our whole time directly interacting with guys on the ground providing them with actionable, near real-time intelligence they use to go out and hunt bad guys with."
According to its Air Force fact sheet, the U-2 provides high-altitude, all-weather surveillance and reconnaissance, day or night, in direct support of U.S. and allied forces. It delivers critical imagery and signals intelligence to decision makers throughout all phases of conflict, including peacetime indications and warnings, low-intensity conflict and large-scale hostilities. The plane is a single-seat, single-engine aircraft that, essentially, show it's the "eyes and ears" of the war.
"Well the awesome thing is that the U-2 is more in demand now than it was in its almost 55-year history," Major Gottenberg said. "The airplane, as a weapons system, has evolved into this amazing thing. What's impressive to me is to be a part of it and to watch the effort that is required to prepare the airplane -- from the maintainer and life support standpoint - to get it ready to fly as consistently as it does.
"To see the worldwide effort that is required to exploit what we're collecting on the airplane, and then to get it back to a guy on the ground literally minutes after its intercepted is amazing to me," the major said. "In the last three to four years, the plane has revolutionized itself in how we employ it. I like to think that effort will continue if we are given the opportunity to keep flying the airplane. It's a system that takes a worldwide effort to make it happen and the guys on the ground, I know, love having us out there. That's an added benefit to a very rewarding job."
The 99th ERS is an attached unit of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing. In addition to the U-2 Dragon Lady, the wing is home to the KC-10 Extender, U-2 Dragonlady and RQ-4 Global Hawk aircraft. The wing is comprised of four groups and 12 squadrons and the wing's deployed mission includes air refueling, surveillance, and reconnaissance in support of overseas contingency operations in Southwest Asia. The wing supports operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom and the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.
You can’t always have a satellite over head of your engagement. And to think this plane was supposed to be retired.
Holy cow. The U 2 has been around for a long time.
A friend of the family in Asia was a U 2 pilot back in the early 60s.
It may fly another 20 years in some form or another.
It is funded in its current form until at least 1214
We do our best.
Wow. I had no idea those were still in service. Amazing that something that’s in the history books is still making news this way.
***A friend of the family in Asia was a U 2 pilot back in the early 60s.***
Backin the 1060s, it was necessary to fly over the USSR to find out what was going on. Then Russians never needed reconisance aircraft as all they had to do was read the NY Times.
It's designer, Kelly Johnson, was born in 1910...
I’ve watched one of those military channel shows on teh U2. Evidently the flight envelope at altitude is razer thin. Something like 7 knots difference between stall and ripping the wings off. Not sure if thats accurate but its done some incredible work.
Holy Carp! he was older than dirt!
Johnson also led the design team that put together the Lockheed P-38 Lightning in the build up to WWII.
It rides the skin of the earths atmosphere.
Get to high and there is no atmosphere, then you have no control.
It's funded until almost 800 years ago? That's one fast plane!
oops 2014! LoL
I thought the U-2 was retired long ago. That airplane was flying back when Eisenhower was President. But then so were B-52s and we still run them
LOL too. Watched one of those take off from Moffett Field. I could almost swear it passed 10,000’ before it reached the end of the runway. Whether it did or not, it was aye loud!
We designed some pretty good craft back then.
He flew out of northern Japan.
I think NK was his beat.
That’s a good story. Seems that there is a real need for airborne spy stuff that isn’t remotely controlled.
Them things catch some air.
There is something to be said for having people involved.
You bet they do! Between the U-2, the Blackbird and the B-52 I am in awe of our designers. (A little less respectful of the Shuttle’s designers because I worked with some of them — they were merely human, if only exceptional humans. *\;-)
They still keep me busy.
I am sad to see the shuttle go away.
Me too, but it’s WAY beyond it’s designed life. We had much neater stuff on the drawing boards supposed to replace it a long time ago, but which never went any further.
Brave pilot as the U-2 has always been difficult to fly. The design decisions to make it able to fly so high also made it hard to control. Newer high performance aircraft have computer assisted flight controls, but the U-2 is still dependent on pilot skill. The U-2 engines also stall at very inconvenient intervals.
The B52s roughly resemble the automobile designs of that era
nitey , nite
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