I’m Eric Boehm, curator of aviation here at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space
Museum. Today, we’ll take a look at possibly the most remarkable airplane
in our entire collection,
The Lockheed A-12.
The A-12 was the product of Project Oxcart, a secret military program to develop
a high speed, high altitude reconnaissance aircraft.
First flown in 1962, the A-12 was built by Lockheed’s Advanced Development
Projects Office, now known as the Skunkworks, and run by their brilliant
aircraft designer, Kelly Johnson.
The A-12 on display here at Intrepid is called Article 122, and served as a radar
test airframe early in 1962 at a secluded test site
known as Area 51, in Groom Lake, Nevada.
Massive Pratt and Whitney J-58 turboramjet engines power the plane.
These engines were used only in the A-12 and then later in the SR-71 Blackbird.
These pointed parts at the front of each jet engine intake were called shock
cones. Without these cones, air entering the engine inlets would
extinguish the jet engines. When flying at supersonic speeds, the shock cones
create a shockwave that slows the incoming air so that the engines
can use it efficently.
Though, seems to have a stealthy shape, it was a special paint covering the
mostly titanium airframe that scattered in confused ground based radar.
The A-12 was capable of performing sensitive intelligence gathering missions
while flying at speeds over a Mach 3 or three times the speed of sound.
Flown by CIA pilots The A-12 flew 24 reconnaissance missions
over North Vietnam between May 1967 and March 1968,
primarily looking for suspected surface to surface missile sites.
Evidence of this was never found but the A-12 did determine the location
of many surface to air missiles.
A-12 missions were also flown over North Korea in 1968.
On January 23 of that year, the North Korean military captured the United
States intelligence gathering ship, USS Pueblo.
The A-12 flights confirm the location of the ship.
Possible locations of the 82 surviving crew members, and most important,
North Korea was not preparing a large scale invasion of South Korea.
Diplomacy was allowed to continue when the crew was released 11 months later.
The USS Pueblo, however, remains the floating museum in North Korea to this day.
Pilots that flew the A-12 called it the Cygnus.
It’s considered by many to be the pinnacle of aircraft development, especially
when you’re regarding top speed and altitude achieved.
For more behind the scenes videos, visit Intrepid Museum Board.