Black Cats

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Black Cat 35th Squadron

High Altitude Aerial Photo Reconnaissance Task Force

 

From 1957 to 1967, the Republic of China and the United States of America joined forces to collect intelligence about the growing nuclear missile capabilities in China mainland in a top secret CIA-backed program of high-altitude surveillance. An elite group of 28 Republic of China Air Force pilots were selected for these missions and trained by

US Air Force. The operation operated behind a front company named Wei-Western Enterprises Inc., until the invention of satellites made the operation obsolete.

Their mission included flying US high-altitude reconnaissance U-2 airplanes en route Qinghai (青海) and Xirljiang (新疆) Provinces in far western China, tracking every nuclear test, every missile launch and every deployment of military planes to coastal air bases. Enduring the 8 to 9 hour missions in cramped flight cabins at altitudes above

70,000 feet, in the near-space conditions with extreme cold and thin atmosphere, these U-2 pilots must dress in bulky pressurized flight suits and oxygen masks in order to survive. Civil aviation rarely flies above 35,000 feet of altitude. The opposition MiG fighters could only reach 50,000 feet. Even with U-2 planes insight, they could not reach them.

After 1960, mainland China established three anti- aircraft missile brigades with the aid of Soviet Union. They shot down five U-2 planes, killed 3 pilots and captured two pilots who parachuted out. These surviving pilots were treated fairly well in captivity in mainland China for 19 years. They were then suddenly released to Hong Kong where they were received by the American CIA and brought to the United States. US awarded them there with a generous reward. Only after another three years these men return to their families in Taiwan, who all this time had had no news of these pilot’s fate.

These U-2 planes were painted all black. They took off from Taoyuan (桃源)

 

returned late in the evening. On their reconnaissance flights, the U-2 planes seemed to keep the habits of cats thus the team was nicknamed “the Black Cat” 35’h Squadron. Of the 28 pilots only 18 pilots survived these highly dangerous operations. The program’s top secret files were only declassified in 2006.

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