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Faster Than A Speeding Bullet, Three Times Higher Than The Tallest Mountain


bob7947

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The blast of flame that sent the black, insect-shaped projectile hurtling across the tarmac made me duck instinctively. It was as if the Devil himself were blasting his way straight from Hell.

Richard Helms, Director of Central Intelligence, 1966 - 1973

Many years ago, as a teen, I noticed a magazine on a barbershop table with an incredible black airplane on the cover. Huge engines on each side of a delta wing and a long thin fuselage with a cockpit near the front. I never forgot that airplane, it was an SR-71 Blackbird. Fifty-five years later, I wrote a brief article about the first Blackbird -- the A-12. It's the fastest and highest flying jet airplane that was ever built. Everything about the A-12 was incredible. A requirement was developed to:

  • make an airplane so fast that nothing could catch it,
  • make it fly so high that nothing could reach it, and
  • make it nearly invisible.

Add to that the fact that no one knew how to do it, the materials didn't exist and it had to be done quickly.  Groom Lake and Area 51 were built for the U-2 and then used for the A-12, Clarence "Kelly" Johnson and his Skunk Works built the U-2 and then built the A-12.  The A-12 was a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) spy plane just as the U-2 was originally. 

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In September 2020, I finished this 20 page article on the A-12 and placed it on the Analysis Page.  I never thought to post it to the Wifcon Blog.  I'm doing that now.  The article took a long time to write because the building of the A-12 was incredible.  Much of the material used to write this article was from 60 years ago and many potential sources confused the SR-71 story with that of the A-12 story.    Others were flat out wrong.  I used sources from people who worked on or flew the A-12.  Fortunately, the CIA finally declassified some documents on the A-12 sometime after 2000--maybe 2007 or 2013--and made it available to the public.  There wasn't much of it but it filled in some of the missing pieces.

There are many facts and stories about the A-12 that are of interest.  One is that, in the A-12, the engines produced only about 20 percent of the power at crusing speeds.  Most of the power came from from the pointed cones sticking out of the nacelles.  Also, the A-12 ran its afterburners continuously.  Then there were the 2 Buick "nailhead" V-8s that were conected to each other to "spool-up" and start each A-12 engine.

At the end of the article, I list the places you can still see an A-12 and added links to Google Maps.  If you look closely at the maps, you will find an image of an A-12.  I also list where the only YF-12A, a derivative of the A-12, is at.  Now, the YF-12A is another story.

Please read:  Faster Than A Speeding Bullet, Three Times Higher Than The Tallest Mountain.

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