After doing a little reconnaissance of my own, the A-12
'is' a single seat aircraft, not two like you see here. The reason this
aircraft has two seats is because it's a 'trainer', one for the
instructor and one for the pilot in training. This is why I thought this
was the SR-71 because that aircraft has two seats, one for the pilot and
one for the reconnaissance systems officer. The dark color paint kept
the sunlight from blinding the pilot.
Cover-ups and Secrecy
The A-12 was born in absolute secrecy at the end of the
1950's to replace the U-2 which had become vulnerable to Soviet SAM
defenses. Officially the program was known as Oxcart, a terrible name if
there ever was one. Since no self-respecting pilot wanted to fly
something as un-sexy as an "Oxcart", Lockheed unofficially dubbed them
"Cygnus", named after the constellation of Cygnus the swan.
When the request for a strategic reconnaissance aircraft was put in by
the C.I.A., Lockheed Skunk Works were the first to respond with a
radical design. Proposed was an airframe that could reach an extreme
velocity of Mach 3.5 at near space altitudes, while having an
exceptionally low cross-radar signature that would make it almost
impossible for the Soviets to spot. The C.I.A. created several cover up
companies which were used to purchase the required titanium for the
construction of Blackbirds from the Soviet Union, which is quite ironic
considering a lot of the missions consisted of relaying information
about the country that the materials were purchased from.
The aircraft was subjected to high temperatures by
kinetic heating from the surrounding air. At cruise speed the leading
edges and intakes would be exposed to 800°F, most of the wings and
fuselage would face 450-500°F. Outer skin temperatures around the rear
of the engine would reach 900-1,100°F, with the jet pipes glowing white
hot even on minimal afterburner settings while cruising. To cope with
these temperatures more than 90% of the fuselage was built of titanium
A cold Blackbird fuselage has many leaks, leading to
fuel spillage while sitting so ground crews had to be protected from
exposure of the fuel, but those leaks close-up as the skin temperature
rises while in flight. Lubricant oils designed for this type of aircraft
must be preheated before take off as well. The A-12 was slightly better
than the SR-71 in almost every category, but not by much.
Lockheed A-12 Blackbird specs.
Maximum Speed: Mach 3.35 at 85,000 feet (Estimated)
Maximum Operational Ceiling: 95,000 feet
Maximum Unrefueled Range: 2,500 miles
Wing Span: 55.6 feet
Wing Area: 1,795 square. feet
Length: 98.75 feet
Empty Weight: 60,000 lbs.
Gross Takeoff Weight: 120,000
Sensor Payload: 2,500 lbs.