The Lockheed U-2 is probably one of the most well known planes. Maybe? I don’t know. I’ve heard of it. It’s got a really interesting story. The technical term is an “ultra-high altitude reconnaissance aircraft.” This plane was first flown in 1955, was produced until 1989, but is still in service. That's 62 years of service, and counting! I’d say the chances that you’ve been surveilled by a U-2 at some point in your life are pretty high. Especially if you’re Russian or Chinese.
After World War II, the US, and everyone else, thought they needed to up their espionage. Russian radar could reach 65,000ft and the highest altitude plane Britain had, the English Electric Canberra, flew just below 50,000ft and wasn’t designed with spying in mind. The USAF commissioned an American version after a successful test flight to spy on Kapustin Yar, Russia’s Area 51. The plane was actually fitted with a camera designed by Jim Baker, at Boston University!
The United States Air Force sent out for bids for a spy plane. Lockheed, who wasn’t solicited, started working on a design. Lockheed’s design was able to exceed 70,000ft and could fly a radius of 1,600 miles. However, the USAF rejected the plane in favor of a Bell Aircraft design.
With Eisenhower’s approval, in 1954 the CIA began Project Aquatone, which further developed the plane the Air Force had just rejected.
The CIA then bought a bunch and the rest is history! U-2 flights became run through Project Dragon Lady, a CIA/USAF joint venture. Fun fact, the cover story for this spy plane was, you guessed it. Weather research.
As far as I know, the first use of the U-2 by the National Reconnaissance Office was in 1970, to spy on the Israeli-Egypt Conflict. From there on, most of the stuff is classified or written in memoirs. However, this is the patch worn by National Reconnaissance Office U-2 Pilots.