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After 50 years, the U-2 remains on the cutting edge

Fourteen U.S. Air Force U-2S Dragon Lady Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Aircraft instructor pilots from the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron pose for a photo in front of a two seat U-2S August 17, 2012 at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. Less people have piloted the U-2 than have earned Super Bowl rings. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mr. John Schwab/Released)

Fourteen U.S. Air Force U-2S Dragon Lady Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Aircraft instructor pilots from the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron pose for a photo in front of a two seat U-2S August 17, 2012 at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. Less people have piloted the U-2 than have earned Super Bowl rings. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mr. John Schwab/Released)

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., -- Whether people recognize it by the Snoopy-like nose or by the flat black paint and red lettering on the tail, the U-2 has become an Air Force reconnaissance icon in its 50 years of military operations.

Since the first model was assembled in the 1950s, the aircraft's original, shiny aluminum skin has evolved to the current flat black paint scheme, and its mission has broadened as intelligence imagery techniques have improved...

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