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Home arrow eBook Categories arrow Military arrow Archangel: CIA’s Supersonic A-12 Reconnaissance Aircraft by David Robarge

Archangel: CIA’s Supersonic A-12 Reconnaissance Aircraft by David Robarge

eBooks - Military
March 16 2008

Archangel: CIA’s Supersonic A-12 Reconnaissance Aircraft by David RobargeThis history of the A-12 reconnaissance aircraft is occasioned by CIA’s acquisition on loan from the Air Force of the eighth A-12 in the production series of 15. Known as Article 128, the aircraft will be on display at the Agency’s Headquarters compound in Langley, Virginia.

This history is intended to provide an accessible overview of the A‑12’s development and use as an intelligence collector.

Writing this story was a fascinating challenge because I am not an aviation historian and have never flown any kind of aircraft. Accordingly, I have tried to make the narrative informative to lay readers like myself, while retaining enough technical detail to satisfy those more knowledgeable about aeronautics and engineering.

I have drawn on the sources listed in the bibliography and the extensive files on the A-12 program in CIA Archives. Hundreds of those documents will be declassified and released to the public in conjunction with the dedication of Article 128 in September 2007 as part of the Agency’s 60th anniversary commemoration.

I have limited citations to specific documentary references and direct quotes from published works. When discrepancies arose among the sources regarding dates and other details, I have relied on the official records.

For their contributions to the substance and production of this work and to the documentary release, I would like to thank my colleagues on the CIA History Staff and at the Center for the Study of Intelligence, the information review officers in the Directorate of Science and Technology, designers and cartographers in the Directorate of Intelligence, and publication personnel at Imaging and Publishing Support. I also am grateful for historical material provided by the Lockheed Martin Corporation and the A-12 program veterans, the Roadrunners.

David Robarge
CIA Chief Historian
September 2007

Read Archangel: CIA’s Supersonic A-12 Reconnaissance Aircraft Online

Full & free, provided by The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Table of Contents:

From Drawing Board to Factory Floor

            * Lockheed's Aviation Genius

Breaking Through Technological Barriers

Full Stress Testing

Hiding OXCART in Plain Sight

Finding a Mission

A Futile Fight for Survival

References

            * A-12 Schematic
            * Timeline of OXCART Milestones
            * Inventory of A-12s
            * BLACK SHIELD Missions
            * The OXCART "Family"

Bibliography

About Lockheed A-12:

The Lockheed A-12 was a reconnaissance aircraft built for the Central Intelligence Agency by Lockheed's famed Skunk Works, based on the designs of Clarence "Kelly" Johnson. The A-12 was produced from 1962 through 1964, and was in operation from 1963 until 1968. The single-seat design, which first flew in April 1962, was the precursor to both the Air Force YF-12 interceptor and the famous SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft. The final A-12 mission was flown in May 1968, and the program and aircraft retired in June of that year.

Timeline

The following timeline describes the overlap of the development and operation of the A-12, and the evolution of its successor, the SR-71.

    * 16 August 1956: Following Soviet protest of U-2 overflights, Richard Bissell conducts the first meeting on reducing the radar cross section of the U-2. This evolves into Project RAINBOW.
    * December 1957: Lockheed begins designing subsonic stealthy aircraft under what will become Project GUSTO.
    * 24 December 1957: First J-58 engine run.
    * 21 April 1958: Kelly Johnson makes first notes on a Mach 3 aircraft, initially called the U-3, but eventually evolving into Archangel I.
    * November 1958: Land Panel provisionally selects Convair FISH (B-58-launched parasite) over Lockheed's A-3.
    * June 1959: Land Panel provisionally selects Lockheed A-11 over Convair FISH. Both companies instructed to re-design their aircraft.
    * 14 September 1959: CIA awards antiradar study, aerodynamic structural tests, and engineering designs, selecting Lockheed's A-12 over rival Convair's KINGFISH. Project OXCART established.
    * 26 January 1960: CIA orders 12 A-12 aircraft
    * 1 May 1960: Francis Gary Powers is shot down in a U-2 over the Soviet Union.
    * 26 April 1962: First flight of A-12.
    * 13 June 1962: SR-71 mock-up reviewed by USAF.
    * 30 July 1962: J58 engine completes pre-flight testing.
    * October, 1962: A-12s first flown with J58 engines
    * 28 December 1962: Lockheed signs contract to build six SR-71 aircraft.
    * January, 1963: A-12 fleet operating with J58 engines
    * 24 May 1963: Loss of first A-12 (#60-6926)
    * June, 1964: Last production A-12 delivered to Groom Lake.
    * 25 July 1964: President Johnson makes public announcement of SR-71.
    * 29 October 1964: SR-71 prototype (#61-7950) delivered to Palmdale.
    * 22 December 1964: First flight of the SR-71 with Lockheed test pilot Bob Gilliland at AF Plant #42.
    * 28 December 1966: Decision to terminate A-12 program by June 1968.
    * 31 May 1967: A-12s conduct Black Shield operations out of Kadena
    * 3 November 1967: A-12 and SR-71 conduct a reconnaissance fly-off. Results were questionable.
    * 23 January 1968: Seizure of USS Pueblo
    * 5 February 1968: Lockheed ordered to destroy A-12, YF-12 and SR-71 tooling.
    * 8 March 1968: First SR-71A (#61-7978) arrives at Kadena AB (OL 8) to replace A-12s.
    * 21 March 1968: First SR-71 (#61-7976) operational mission flown from Kadena AB over Vietnam.
    * 8 May 1968: Jack Layton flies last operational A-12 sortie, over North Korea.
    * 5 June 1968: Loss of last A-12 (#60-6932)
    * 21 June 1968: Final A-12 flight to Palmdale, California.

(From wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

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