‘A weird thing was that after a (A-12) flight the windshields often were pitted with tiny black dots, like burn specks. We couldn’t figure out what it was.’ Norman Nelson CIA’s engineer inside the Skunk Works.
In 1959, Lockheed began work on the design of a long-range, high-altitude plane, then known as the A-11. It was a Cold War project. Heading the project team was Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, Lockheed’s Vice President for Advanced Development Projects. Johnson had previously led the development of the U-2 spy plane.
Five years after work began on the A-11, on Feb. 29, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson told reporters that the aircraft (by that time modified to the A-12 Oxcart production version with a reduced radar cross section) had attained speeds of over 2,000 mph and altitudes of more than 70,000 feet in tests at Area 51.
After an A-12 flight they found specks of insects on the windshield.
Norman Nelson recalls in Ben Rich‘s book “Skunk Works”;
‘I was the CIA’s engineer inside the Skunk Works, the only government guy there, and Kelly gave me the run of the place. Kelly ran the Skunk Works as if it was his own aircraft company.
‘A weird thing was that after a (A-12) flight the windshields often were pitted with tiny black dots, like burn specks. We couldn’t figure out what it was.
‘We had the specks lab tested, and they turned out to be organic material—insects that had been injected into the stratosphere and were circling in orbit around the earth with dust and debris at seventy-five thousand feet in the jet stream. How in hell did they get lifted up there?
‘We finally figured it out: they were hoisted aloft from the atomic test explosions in Russia and China.’
Be sure to check out Linda Sheffield Miller, Col Richard (Butch) Sheffield’s daughter, Col. Sheffield was an SR-71 Reconnaissance Systems Officer) Facebook Page Habubrats for awesome Blackbird’s photos and stories.
Photo credit: CIA and U.S. Air Force