The SR-71 Blackbird

The CIA A-12 Blackbird Program

 

The A-12 started out as an USAF interceptor to replace the cancelled F-108A Rapier. In October 1962, CIA authorized the Skunk Works to study the feasibility of modifying the A-12 to carry and deploy a reconnaissance drone for unmanned overflight of denied areas. The project was codenamed TAGBOARD.

A-12 Blackbird: Finding A Mission

A-12 Blackbird: Finding A Mission

Facing changed circumstances in relations with the Soviet Union and in US satellite development, US policymakers and intelligence officials had to come to grips with how best to use the A-12 as it neared completion. Its intended purpose, replacing the U-2 in overflights of the Soviet Union, had become less and less likely well before the A-12 was operational. Soviet air defenses had advanced to the point that even an aircraft flying faster than a rifle bullet at the edge of space could be tracked. In any event, President Kennedy had stated publicly that the United States would not resume such missions.

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The OXCART Family - A-12, YF-12, SR-71, and M21 Blackbirds

The OXCART Family - A-12, YF-12, SR-71, and M21 Blackbirds

The A-12’s unique design and characteristics became the foundation for three other versions of supersonic aircraft that Lockheed built for CIA and the Air Force: the YF-12A, the M-21, and the SR-71.

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