The reconnaissance aircraft of the USAF are used for monitoring enemy activity, originally carrying no armament. Although the U-2 is designated as a “utility” aircraft, it is a reconnaissance platform. The roles of the aircraft vary greatly among the different variants to include general monitoring (RC-26B), ballistic missile monitoring (RC-135S), electronic intelligence gathering (RC-135U), signal intelligence gathering (RC-135V/W), and high altitude surveillance (U-2)
Several unmanned remotely controlled reconnaissance aircraft (RPAs), have been developed and deployed. Recently, the RPAs have been seen to offer the possibility of cheaper, more capable fighting machines that can be used without risk to aircrews.