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bob7947

Have You Visited This Airplane?

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Have you visited the Lockheed SR-71C?  It is a one-of-a-kind-airplane and it exists in one place.  If you have visited it, please explain what it is.

I know what it is and where it is at.  I want to see if one of our Members has seen it in person and knows why it is unique.

 

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Bob,

I've seen it and knew it had a one of a kind (or is that two of a kind?) story. 

...didn't remember the model designation or understand the operational history, though, before checking with Google.

 

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3 hours ago, bob7947 said:

SR-71C “Blackbird”

OK, it does have a nickname that I won't mention here.

Now, the next and final question is where can you find 2 CIA spy planes resting next to an Air Force reconnaissance plane.

I’m guessing that they are U-2’s or various variants of those planes at Davis-Monthan AFB in a secure area of the Boneyard. 

(My daughter flew several C-130E’s on their final flights from Pope AFB to D-M 12 or 13 years ago.) 

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The 3 airplanes are at the Air Force Flight Test (AFFT) Museum at Edwards AFB.  All 3 are at Blackbird Airpark.  I've linked the coordinates of the Airpark on Google maps so you can see them.  If you look at the image, you will see the CIA's U-2 spy plane in the back (it's the little one).  Next, on the right, is the CIA's A-12 spy plane--the original blackbird.  To the A-12's right is the D-21--a pilotless drone--that was originally supposed to fit between the engines of the A-12.  Finally, on the left is the "family version" of the A-12--an Air Force SR-71.  The SR-71 was a 2-seater and the A-12 was for a single pilot.  To the left of the SR-71, is the Pratt & Whitney J58 engine.  That engine was built for a Navy airplane that was scrapped and then significantly modified to meet the needs of the A-12. 

By the way, the A-12 is wearing Air Force markings.  I know the 3 A-12s stationed at Kadena Air Base in the 1960s wore those to confuse people that might see them.  The CIA had no markings on it's spy planes, other than the Air Force markings.

The 3 planes--2 well known--and one not well known are at the Palmdale Regional Airport--not far from where they were built.  If you haven't been there, the museum doesn't charge but they use volunteers.  If I was out there, I would check with the museum to see if they would be open tomorrow, and if so, I would be out there tomorrow.

There are a few A-12s at museums around the country.

------------------------------

PS:  The A-12 is wearing the number "6924." This was given the CIA name "Article 121"  and appears to be the first A-12 built. 

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Thanks Bob...And that's in addition to the two SR-71s found on Edwards main base (one at the main Edwards AFB Museum and the other in front of NASA's Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center).

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here_2_help:

The A-12 trainer never had the A-12's powerful engine--the P&W J-58.  The initial A-12s were built with J-75s fitted in the engine space while the J-58 was readied.  Once the J-58s were readied they replaced the J-75s in all but one aircraft--the Trainer.  The J-75 engine could still get the A-12 to Mach 2.  Once the J-58s were installed the A-12's reached their full speed of at least Mach 3.2.

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1 hour ago, bob7947 said:

here_2_help:

The A-12 trainer never had the A-12's powerful engine--the P&W J-58.  The initial A-12s were built with J-75s fitted in the engine space while the J-58 was readied.  Once the J-58s were readied they replaced the J-75s in all but one aircraft--the Trainer.  The J-75 engine could still get the A-12 to Mach 2.  Once the J-58s were installed the A-12's reached their full speed of at least Mach 3.2.

Yeah, but it looks cool.

 

 

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Alabama is home to two A-12  aircraft. One is at the NASA Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville Alabama. The other is at Battleship Park in Mobile Alabama.

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Here is another sitting on a stick in San Diego.  It is Article 130 about two thirds through production.  There once was one at the Minnesota Air National Guard but the CIA swiped it so it could be placed on a stick at the CIA.  Who can argue that the CIA should have one of its own since the CIA paid for it.  That one is Article 128.

If anyone is wondering why I am posting about the A-12 it is because I am writing an article about it.

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The SR-71 Wing at Beale AFB was my Cadet Squadron 18 “Squadron Sponsor” at USAFA in ‘69-‘71. I saw them flying but never got a ride, of course. 

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There are about 6 A-12s in existence.  Usually, they are found at the end of a stick.  This is the one that the CIA swiped from the Minnesota Air National Guard and placed on a stick at CIA headquarters

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The Mobile, Al.  Battleship Park A-12 is parked in a huge aircraft hangar pavilion both of which were extensively damaged during hurricane Katrina in 2005. The plane was restored again by 2008. 

https://www.johnweeks.com/sr71/mobile.html

The Other Alabama located A-12 is Tail number 06930,  parked in front of the NASA Space and Rocket Center on I-565 in Huntsville. It is apparently still under restoration. It was unrestored and was in outside storage with other future exhibits and left over spare rocket parts during the period that we lived in Huntsville, AL from 1997-2007. It looks much better now than back then.

Bob, will you be writing about the overall program cost at all? I would imagine it was quite significant, considering the size of the Defense Budget in the early 1960’s. May have been funded out of special secret CIA appropriations. When Vietnam  ramped up in mid 60’s, it consumed a major share of the Defense Budget through at least 1975, along with probably, NATO. Of course, the A-12’s and the USAF SR-71’s had been built before the 70’s. 

Im guessing  that there were more hours flown in testing, development and acceptance testing of the A-12’s than actual mission hours flown.

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The Mobile, Al.  Battleship Park A-12 is parked in a huge aircraft hangar pavilion both of which were extensively damaged during hurricane Katrina in 2005. The plane was restored again by 2008. 

Clearly somone knew the significance of this aircraft.  The A-12 was truly a first-of-its-kind.  The only off-the-shelf item was the P&W J-58 which still was modified substantially for the A-12.  It is claimed that the CIA bought a new factory for P&W to build the modified J-58.  Then there was enlargement of the facilities at Groom Lake.

I could not find the contract between Lockheed and the CIA.  However, it is claimed that there was a clause in the contract which allowed for cost reevaulation each year because the plane was the first one built with titanium.  I do know the plane was said to have had about an 80 % increase in cost at least.  However, the A-12 contract did not include the cost of the J-58 engines.

When you are talking about a 60 year old spy plane built for a spy agency you are dependent on what is available and what is declassified.  Then you have data conflicts between the spy agency account and the Lockheed employee accounts.

Finally, my goal is to limit the paper to 10 pages so that it is read.  I'm searching for items that are not already in other published papers.  

The A-12 had a life span of about 1958 through 1968 when they were brought back from Kadena.  The CIA didn't declassify its documents until 2013. 

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  It is claimed that the CIA bought a new factory for P&W to build the modified J-58.  

I was looking back at my source and it seems that P&W may have built the factory with its funds.  However, the source explains that the CIA swallowed the J-58's enormous development costs of $600 million.  What is in that $600 million is not explained and I don't have another source for this amount.

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It would be interesting to learn tHe method of the competition at that era. This was obviously stretching the state of the art. 

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The CIA source did not specifiy the contract type but I assume it was a cost reimbursement of some type.  There was a committee which was not an SSEB nor SSA.  I think it was called the Land Committee--after the Polaroid guy who was on it   Lockheed's cost estimate was about 30 percent lower than Convair's.  Both technical designs were judged equal.  However, there was doubt that Convair's design could work.  Lockheed's past performance was judged better because of the performance on the U-2 which was completed ahead of schedule and under cost.  Lockheed's experience was judged better than Convair because of the Skunk Work's and its cleared personnel who worked on classified projects.  

The terms past performance and experience were not used but you can fit what they did into those terms.  I would assume that the A-12 and SR-71 were classified as a major project or system.  If you look at it that way, the design competition was between Convair and Lockheed and others for about 18 months.  After the award to Lockheed, there was some testing done on the A-12 mockup.  The building of 10 planes in the CIA contract could be considered the low-rate-initial production (LRIP).  Finally, the Air Force's 20 or 30 SR-71s could fit as the the production run.  The SR-71 is an A-12 with a back seat and different reconnaisance equipment.  There was a one-on-one test between the 2 planes to see which could do the best surveillance job.  It is said the result was inconclusive.

Which plane flew the highest and fastest?  The A-12 probably was capable of flying a little bit faster and a little bit higher because of its lower weight.  However, it really doesn't matter because they are about the same plane.  If you look at the two planes, the top speed that either could achieve was probably about MACH 3.35 and the top altitude was about 100,000 feet.

If you begin with the design competition for the A-12 and end when the SR-71 was first operational, we're talking about 4.5 years.  I'd have to look but I think the A-12 was operational a year or so earlier.  So, we are looking at a program that began as beyond the state of the art and into production in less than 4.5 years.  Maybe we should go back and see how it was done and do systems that way or maybe it was just Kelly Johnson that got it done.

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