Lockheed Blackbird

The Lockheed A-12 is a high-altitude, Mach 3+ reconnaissance aircraft built for the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) by Lockheed's Skunk Works, based on the designs of Clarence "Kelly" Johnson. The aircraft was designated A-12, the 12th in a series of internal design efforts for "Archangel", the aircraft's internal code name. In 1959, it was selected over Convair's FISH and Kingfish designs as the winner of Project GUSTO, and was developed and operated under Project Oxcart.

The A-12 was produced from 1962 to 1964 and flew from 1963 to 1968. It was the precursor to the twin-seat U.S. Air Force YF-12 prototype interceptor, M-21 launcher for the D-21 drone, and the SR-71 Blackbird, a slightly longer variant able to carry a heavier fuel and camera load. The A-12 began flying missions in 1967 and its final mission was in May 1968; the program and aircraft were retired in June. The program was officially revealed in the mid-1990s.

The A-12 training variant (60-6927 "Titanium Goose") was a two-seat model with two cockpits in tandem with the rear cockpit raised and slightly offset. In case of emergency, the variant was designed to allow the flight instructor to take control.

The M-21, a two-seat variant, carried and launched the Lockheed D-21, an unmanned, faster and higher-flying reconnaissance drone. The M-21 had a pylon on its back for mounting the drone and a second cockpit for a Launch Control Operator/Officer (LCO) in the place of the A-12's Q bay.[65] The D-21 was autonomous; after launch, it would fly over the target, travel to a predetermined rendezvous point, eject its data package, and self-destruct. A C-130 Hercules would catch the package in midair.[66]

The M-21 program was canceled in 1966 after a drone collided with the mother ship at launch. The crew safely ejected, but LCO Ray Torick drowned when his flight suit filled with water after landing in the ocean.[67]

The D-21 lived on in the form of a B-model launched from a pylon under the wing of the B-52 bomber. The D-21B performed operational missions over China from 1969 to 1971, but was not particularly successful.

The SR-71 was developed as a black project from the Lockheed A-12 reconnaissance aircraft during the 1960s by Lockheed's Skunk Works division. American aerospace engineer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson was responsible for many of the aircraft's innovative concepts. The shape of the SR-71 was based on that of the A-12, which was one of the first aircraft to be designed with a reduced radar cross-section. Initially, a bomber variant of the A-12 was requested by Curtis LeMay, before the program was focused solely on reconnaissance. Mission equipment for the reconnaissance role included signals intelligence sensors, side-looking airborne radar, and a camera;[2] the SR-71 was both longer and heavier than the A-12, allowing it to hold more fuel as well as a two-seat cockpit. The SR-71 entered service in January 1966.

The Lockheed YF-12 was an American Mach 3+ capable, high-altitude interceptor prototype, developed and manufactured by American aerospace company Lockheed Corporation.

It was developed during the late 1950s and early 1960s as a potential replacement for the F-106 Delta Dart interceptor for the United States Air Force (USAF). The YF-12 was a twin-seat version of the then-secret single-seat Lockheed A-12 reconnaissance aircraft operated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); unlike the A-12, it was furnished with the Hughes AN/ASG-18 fire-control radar and could be armed with AIM-47 Falcon (GAR-9) air-to-air missiles.

Lockheed Blackbird Family