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These U.S. National Guard Spy Planes Have Flown All Over the World

On Jun. 8, 2004, an American spy plane took off from Karshi-Khanaba Air Base — aka K2 — in Uzbekistan and began making its way toward Afghanistan. Rather than one of the regular Air Force’s iconic Cold War-era U-2 Dragon Lady or an airliner-sized RC-135V/W Rivet Joint, the crew of Air National Guardsmen from Utah and Nevada were at the controls of a specially modified C-130 Hercules cargo plane.

The plane’s cargo bay was packed with an intelligence system nicknamed Senior Scout. With the gear on board, the airlifter became a part-time spook, able to find, listen in on and record enemy communications down below.

“On that day, as on most of its missions, the crew supported the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit,” according to one Air National Guard history. “The Senior Scout established contact with the Marines only to find them surrounded by more than 120 anti-coalition militia.”

As reinforcements rushed to the scene, the intelligence analysts flying above found and kept tabs on the insurgents by tracking their radio chatter. The crew repeatedly relayed that information to the American troops on the ground throughout the firefight.

On Jun. 8, 2004, an American spy plane took off from Karshi-Khanaba Air Base — aka K2 — in Uzbekistan and began making its way toward Afghanistan. Rather than one of the regular Air Force’s iconic Cold War-era U-2 Dragon Lady or an airliner-sized RC-135V/W Rivet Joint, the crew of Air National Guardsmen from Utah and Nevada were at the controls of a specially modified C-130 Hercules cargo plane.

The plane’s cargo bay was packed with an intelligence system nicknamed Senior Scout. With the gear on board, the airlifter became a part-time spook, able to find, listen in on and record enemy communications down below.

“On that day, as on most of its missions, the crew supported the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit,” according to one Air National Guard history. “The Senior Scout established contact with the Marines only to find them surrounded by more than 120 anti-coalition militia.”

As reinforcements rushed to the scene, the intelligence analysts flying above found and kept tabs on the insurgents by tracking their radio chatter. The crew repeatedly relayed that information to the American troops on the ground throughout the firefight.

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