In 1954 Frank Wisner of the Central Intelligence Agency placed Richard Bissellin charge of developing and operating the U-2 spy plane. The U-2 was designed by Kelly Johnson, who had previously been responsible for the P-38 and the F-104 fighter planes. It was essentially a glider with a jet engine. It was so light it could fly at an altitude of 70,000 feet and travel over 4,000 miles. It took two years and $19m to develop.
President Dwight Eisenhower gave permission for the U-2 to fly over Moscow and Leningrad for the first time on 4th July, 1956. The U-2 was a great success and within two years Richard Bissell was able to say that 90% of all hard intelligence about the Soviet Union coming into the CIA was "funneled through the lens of the U-2's aerial cameras". This information convinced Eisenhower that Khrushchev was lying about the number of bombers and missiles being built by the Soviet Union. Eisenhower now knew that United States enjoyed a major advantage over the Soviet Union and allowed him to control defence spending.
As the end of his presidency approached, Dwight Eisenhower, decided to take a decisive step towards ending the Cold War by arranging a summit meeting with Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union. The two sides agreed to meet in Paris on 16th May, 1960.
On 1st May, 1960, a high-altitude American photographic reconnaissance aircraft, a Lockheed U-2, was shot down over the Soviet Union and the pilot, Gary Powers, was taken prisoner. Six days later Khrushchev announced to the world what had happened and demanded a full apology from the United States government. President Eisenhower replied by admitting that the Central Intelligence Agency had carried out these spying missions without his authority. However, he argued that the United States government had the right to protect its security by collecting the maximum of information about Soviet military strength.
On 15th May Nikita Khrushchev made another appeal to Dwight Eisenhower to apologize for carrying out aerial spying on the Soviet Union. When he refused, the Soviet delegation left Paris and the summit meeting never took place.
Gary Powers was returned to the United States in February 1962 in exchange for a high-ranking Soviet spy that had been arrested by the Americans.