The CIA's Very Own SR-71 Spyplane: Check Out the Lockheed A-12

Sebastien Roblin
https://media.defense.gov/2007/Oct/15/2000441516/-1/-1/0/071015-F-1234S-007.JPG

Sebastien Roblin

Security, Europe

It was amazing.

The CIA's Very Own SR-71 Spyplane: Check Out the Lockheed A-12

The Black Shield flights proved valuable, but also suggested it’s a good thing the A-12s were never assigned for overflights of the Soviet Union, which was defended by more advanced surface-to-air missiles and interceptors.

Arguably few aircraft are quite as iconic as the striking-looking SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, renowned for its ability to cruise at three times the speed of sound so as to outrun enemy surface-to-air missiles.

(This first appeared several weeks ago.)

But the Blackbird’s was actually an enlarged evolution of the Lockheed A-12, designed for service with the Central Intelligence Agency. The single-seat A-12 could fly slightly faster and higher, but it was doomed to be replaced by its heavier Air Force spinoff.

By the late 1950s, aviation engineers knew that new Soviet surface-to-air missiles could effectively threaten high-altitude U-2 spy plane overflights of the Soviet Union. This was dramatically illustrated by the shoot down of Gary Power’s U-2 in 1960 over the Soviet Union, which triggering a humiliating political crisis. A second U-2 was shot down during the Cuban Missile Crisis—an event which could have sparked a global nuclear war.

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