The Black Cat Squadron - Cold War spyflights over mainland China from Taiwan

Key information

7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Main Building, SOAS, University of London
Djam Lecture Theatre (DLT)

About this event

The Black Cat Squadron flew the famous U-2 spyplane by day at very high altitude from Taiwan, taking pictures of China’s growing military power, including its development of nuclear weapons. The U-2 was a difficult plane to fly; six nationalist pilots and eight aircraft were lost in training. Five more pilots were shot down over the mainland.

The Chinese Communists reacted to the intruders with ingenuity and determination. Urged on by the top leaders, Mao Tse-Tung and Chou En-Lai, commanders in the People’s Liberation Army cleverly redeployed radars and anti-aircraft guns, and modified their Soviet-supplied fighters and missiles. In response, the CIA added sophisticated electronic warfare gear to the nationalist planes.

The ruthless nationalist leader Chiang Kai-Shek and his wily son Chiang Ching-Kuo personally directed the squadron, which was a potent symbol of their hope of one day going “Back to the Mainland”.


Speaker's biography

Chris Pocock

Chris Pocock is a British full-time writer, specialising in aerospace. He was the defence editor of 'Aviation International News' for 30 years, and still writes occasionally for the company. He is also an independent commentator on aerospace/defense issues.

His interest in the U-2 started in the early 1970s. In 1989, his first book on the Dragon Lady was published to favorable reviews, especially from members of the US airborne reconnaissance community. In 1997, he became the first foreign civilian to fly in the U-2. His largest book, '50 Years of the U-2', was published in 2005 to mark the aircraft's golden anniversary. His latest book, 'Dragon Lady Today', was published in 2015.

The first book attracted considerable interest in Taiwan, because it described how the Black Cat Squadron of the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) flew dangerous missions over mainland China during the Cold War, in partnership with the CIA. It was adapted and translated into Chinese and published in Taiwan. His later work provided more details on this remarkable squadron. As a result, he has been invited to Taiwan many times, and acquired numerous friends and contacts there. He was a consultant for “The Lost Black Cats”, a feature-length documentary that was released in Taiwan in 2018.

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