In 1958, well aware that the U-2 could not continue to overfly, The only two-seat trainer A-12 built was nicknamed The following timeline describes the overlap of the development and 16 December 1957: Lockheed begins designing subsonic stealthy aircraft 24 21 November 1958: The Land panel provisionally selects Convair FISH June 1959: The Land panel provisionally selects Lockheed A-11 over 14 26 1 26 13 30 October 1962: A-12s first flown with J58 engines 28 January 1963: A-12 fleet operating with J58 engines 24 7 June 1964: Last production A-12 delivered to Groom Lake. 25 29 22 28 31 3 23 5 8 21 8 5 21
the Soviet Union with impunity, and in the absence of any guarantee that
satellite reconnaissance programs would be successful, President
Eisenhower approved CIA plans to build the Lockheed A-12, the first Mach 3.2+
high flying aircraft. Lesser known because of its secrecy, the CIA's A-12 made
possible the production of the better known SR-71 that replaced the A-12 in
1968. It wasn't until in the last few years that declassification of information
about various cold war projects revealed the existence of the highly classified
A-12 CIA project OXCART and Operation Black Shield where, for 6 years, the A-12
CIA pilots flying 15 miles above the earth photographed the movements of
adversaries around the globe. During the flight phases of Project OXCART, 2,850
flights were completed out of Groom Lake for a total of 4,800 flight hours.
There were 1,032 flights which reached or exceeded speeds of Mach 3.0 for a
total of 675 flight hours at or above Mach 3.0. The maximum speed achieved was
Mach 3.29 and the maximum altitude achieved was 90,000. During the last three
years of OXCART at Groom Lake, Nevada.
Project OXCART was the experimental test phase that was
conducted in total secrecy at Groom Lake, Nevada. This unique project was
supported by the 1129th Special Activities Squadron of the Air Force and EG&G
Special Projects, both based in the state of Nevada. Other support participants
commuted to Groom Lake where they were furnished housing and board. To escape a
Nevada law requiring all contract personnel working in the state to be
identified within 48 hours, all participants in Project OXCART and Operation
BLACK SHIELD were classified as employees or consultants of the Central
Intelligence Agency. In 1962, the pilots transitioned from the Air Force into
this CIA project, returning to the Air Force in 1968.
Twenty nine combat missions were flown during Operation BLACK
SHIELD. Twenty four were flown over North Vietnam, two were primarily targeted
over Cambodia and Laos and three were flown over North Korea during the USS
Pueblo seizure by North Korea in 1968. The photo imagery taken on these missions
was excellent. Enemy radar tracking was reported, ranging from brief reflections
of the A-12's presence to extended and accurate tracking. Surface to air
missiles were launched at the A-12 without success. Five of the A-12s were lost
due to accidents. Two A-12 pilots were killed, Walter Ray near Groom Lake in
January 1967 and Jack Weeks flying out of Kadena AB, Okinawa on 4 June 1968 .
His aircraft disappeared east of the Philippines while on a routine flight test
of an A-12 being returned to Groom Lake for retirement of the program. Cause of
the accident was not determined, although catastrophic engine failure was
probable. An intensive sea and air search failed to locate the pilot, aircraft
or any evidence of the accident. After years of bureaucratic battles involving
the CIA and the Air Force the program was terminated in 1968 - in favor of an
Air Force SR-71. The remaining two A-12s in Okinawa left on 8 and 19 June 1968.
The Operations and Maintenance facilities were given to the USAF for the SR-71
detachment. Frank Murray made the final flight of an A-12 in Article 131 on 21
June 1968 from the Area 51 Groom Dry Lake to the storage at Palmdale, CA.
On June 1968 OXCART and BLACK SHIELD were terminated. The BLACK SHIELD pilots
were awarded the CIA Intelligence Star for Valor in the presence of their wives
at Groom Lake. The Air Force 1129th Special Activities Squadron at Groom Lake
was award the Air Force Distinguished Unit Award and the commanders awarded the
Legion of Merit Award.
Nearly a decade passed between the original conception of the OXCART
program and the operational use of the A-12. After just 29 operational
sorties, the A-12 were retired. At their retirement, in 1968, the eight
non-deployed aircraft were placed in storage. The deployed A-12s returned from
Okinawa, Japan to Palmdale, California
and were also placed in storage. It wasn't until 19 September 2007 that the Central
Intelligence Agency declassified the names of those participating in Project
OXCART and Operation BLACK SHIELD. During Project OXCART the 1129th SAS adopted
the unofficial unit identity of "Roadrunners". The operation phase
BLACK SHIELD was identified as "Cygnus." The pilots were identified by
"Dutch" numbers (Dutch 20, Dutch 22, etc.)
For several years the participants of Project OXCART have
enjoyed a closed association identified as Roadrunners Internationale. Since the
project being partially declassified the association, the association has
aggressively engaged in researching and recording the legacy of the program and
its participants via a web site and the Oral History of the Cold War Project at
UNLV. Roadrunners Internationale is headed by President T.D. Barnes (former EG&G
Special Projects), Vice President Harry Martin (former Air Force 1129th
SAS), Secretary Roger Andersen (former Air Force 1129th SAS), Treasurer Jim
Prucnal (former CIA), Historian Frank Murray (former CIA pilot/retired
USAF), and advisor Col. Hugh Slater (former commander of Project
OXCART/Operation BLACK SHIELD all being residents of the State of Nevada. http://roadrunnersinternationale.com/
"Titanium Goose". It is on display at the California Science
Center, Los Angeles, CA. The rest of the A-12 planes are in museums,
however none were retired in Nevada where they flew.
Head-on view of an A-12 on the deck of the Intrepid
Sea-Air-Space Museum, illustrating the chines.
operation of the A-12, and the evolution of its successor, the SR-71.
Following Soviet protest of U-2 overflights, Richard
M. Bissell, Jr. conducts the first meeting on reducing the radar cross
section of the U-2. This evolves into Project RAINBOW.
under what will become Project GUSTO.
First J-58 engine run.
Kelly Johnson makes first notes on a Mach 3 aircraft, initially called the
U-3, but eventually evolving into Archangel I.
(B-58-launched parasite) over Lockheed's A-3.
Convair FISH. Both companies instructed to re-design their aircraft.
CIA awards antiradar study, aerodynamic structural tests, and engineering
designs, selecting Lockheed's A-12 over rival Convair's KINGFISH.
Project OXCART established.
CIA orders 12 A-12 aircraft
Francis Gary Powers is shot down in a U-2 over the Soviet Union.
First flight of A-12 with Lockheed test pilot Louis Schalk at Groom Lake.
SR-71 mock-up reviewed by USAF.
J58 engine completes pre-flight testing.
Lockheed signs contract to build six SR-71 aircraft.
Loss of first A-12 (#60-6926)
First flight of the YF-12A with Lockheed test pilot James Eastham at Groom
President Johnson makes public announcement of SR-71.
SR-71 prototype (#61-7950) delivered to Palmdale.
First flight of the SR-71 with Lockheed test pilot Bob Gilliland at AF
Plant #42. First mated flight of the MD-21 with Lockheed test pilot Bill
Park at Groom Lake.
Decision to terminate A-12 program by June 1968.
A-12s conduct Black Shield operations out of Kadena
A-12 and SR-71 conduct a reconnaissance fly-off. Results were
Seizure of USS Pueblo
Lockheed ordered to destroy A-12, YF-12 and SR-71 tooling.
First SR-71A (#61-7978) arrives at Kadena AB (OL 8) to replace A-12s.
First SR-71 (#61-7976) operational mission flown from Kadena AB over
Jack Layton flies last operational A-12 sortie, over North Korea.
Loss of last A-12 (#60-6932)
Final A-12 flight to Palmdale, California.
In 1958, well aware that the U-2 could not continue to overfly,
The only two-seat trainer A-12 built was nicknamed
The following timeline describes the overlap of the development and
December 1957: Lockheed begins designing subsonic stealthy aircraft
November 1958: The Land panel provisionally selects Convair FISH
June 1959: The Land panel provisionally selects Lockheed A-11 over
October 1962: A-12s first flown with J58 engines
January 1963: A-12 fleet operating with J58 engines
June 1964: Last production A-12 delivered to Groom Lake.