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Soviet High Altitude Reconnaissance Balloons during the Cold War

Dynoman

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Recently I was wondering if the Soviets had a reconnaissance balloon activity similar to the US projects Skyhook and Mogul. Any evidence that such projects in the USSR existed?

The Soviets developed manned stratospheric balloons in the mid-1930's and continued research for spacesuits and other high altitude and spaceflight technologies using balloons under the Volga program in the 1950's and 1960's. However, I don't know of a reconnaissance program or overflights using balloons by the USSR.
 

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Dynoman

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There is an account by Ken Collins, CIA A-12 pilot, who was alerted in the 1960's while stationed at Groom Lake to launch in an A-12 and intercept a high flying Soviet balloon. This story is recounted in Anne Jacobsen's Area-51 book. He was told that the balloon was a stratospheric reconnaissance balloon. Radar observers were able to track the balloon across the country and Collins picked up the balloon on radar in an attempt to view the the balloon. He is said to have tried to circle round the balloon. The story was not released to the public because of concern over the public's reaction to the idea of Soviet overflights of the US. The book states that the story is still classified.


"The strangest thing for me was," Col. Collins continued, "I was in the area near my quarters and got a call from operations. So I raced over [to the airfield], got into my pressure suit, and they launched me in the A-12 to go chase down a Russian surveillance balloon that had floated over. I don't know what they thought I was going to do at Mach 3 while chasing a balloon. I went by it so quick I wasn't able to see anything. But someone had the wild idea to try it, and I was more than happy to fly."
 

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