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Beale AFB Spy Plane Plays Role In Russia-Ukraine Conflict

MARYSVILLE (CBS13) — Specialized planes from our region are watching the buildup of Russian troops amid the Ukraine crisis.

The U-2 spy plane is among the assets the United States is using to monitor Russian military movements near Ukraine. The U-2 is based out of Beale Air Force Base near Marysville in Yuba County, and a detachment from Beale is currently deployed overseas.

"It has been in every hotspot in the last six decades, so it's going to be relevant and it's going to have some role in what's going on out there," said retired Air Force Colonel Merryl Tengesdal.

She is a former U-2 pilot who says the aircraft is ideal for providing data in this type of military situation.

"It's a special unique mission of intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance," Tengesdal said. "We fly to altitudes that other aircraft do not."

So how can the U-2 help the U.S. and its European allies?

"It takes imagery in the form of electrical, optical or doppler, and it also takes pictures of an area and it sends that data near-real time to the end user," Tengesdal said.

She says pilots understand there's a risk flying into these types of conflict zones.

"We know it's the job. It's something that we've been trained to do. It's something that you've been practicing since day one so we go in there," Tengesdal said. "It's business. It's something that we enjoy and we're glad to serve our country."

Beale also hosts unmanned global hawk surveillance drones. Sources told CBS13 that this type of aircraft is being used nearly around the clock to monitor the border area and provide ground imagery.

Colonel Tengesdal says no matter where in the world they're needed, Beale crews have always been ready to serve when the call comes in.

"There's definitely a sense of satisfaction and a sense of service and commitment of being part of the solution to any conflict that arises," Tengesdal said.

Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield is also playing a role in helping Ukraine by loading and shipping military cargo to the country.

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