After an A-12 flight specks of insects hoisted from the atomic test explosions in Russia and China were found on the Oxcart windshield

CIA engineer recalls when specks of insects hoisted from atomic tests in Russia and China were found on an A-12 windshield after an Oxcart mission

By Linda Sheffield Miller
Jul 16 2023
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CIA A-12 Oxcart

CIA developed the highly secret A-12 OXCART as the U-2 spy plane’s successor, intended to meet the nation’s need for a very fast, very high-flying reconnaissance aircraft that could avoid Soviet air defenses.

SR-71 T-Shirts
CLICK HERE to see The Aviation Geek Club contributor Linda Sheffield’s T-shirt designs! Linda has a personal relationship with the SR-71 because her father Butch Sheffield flew the Blackbird from test flight in 1965 until 1973. Butch’s Granddaughter’s Lisa Burroughs and Susan Miller are graphic designers. They designed most of the merchandise that is for sale on Threadless. A percentage of the profits go to Flight Test Museum at Edwards Air Force Base. This nonprofit charity is personal to the Sheffield family because they are raising money to house SR-71, #955. This was the first Blackbird that Butch Sheffield flew on Oct. 4, 1965.

CIA awarded the OXCART contract to Lockheed (builder of the U-2) in 1959.

In meeting the A-12’s extreme speed and altitude requirements, Lockheed–led by legendary engineer Clarence “Kelly” Johnson–overcame numerous technical challenges with cutting-edge innovations in titanium fabrication, lubricants, jet engines, fuel, navigation, flight control, electronic countermeasures, radar stealthiness, and pilot life-support systems.

In 1965, after hundreds of hours flown at high personal risk by the elite team of CIA and Lockheed test pilots, the A-12 was declared fully operational, attaining the design specifications of a sustained speed of Mach 3.2 at 90,000 feet altitude.

Specks of insects found on an A-12 windshield

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.

SR-71 print
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. SR-71A Blackbird 61-7972 “Skunkworks”

‘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 Pages Habubrats SR-71 and Born into the Wilde Blue Yonder for awesome Blackbird’s photos and stories.

Photo credit: Dru Blair via www.drublair.com

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird model
This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

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Linda Sheffield Miller

Linda Sheffield Miller

Grew up at Beale Air Force Base, California. I am a Habubrat. Graduated from North Dakota State University. Former Public School Substitute Teacher, (all subjects all grades). Member of the DAR (Daughters of the Revolutionary War). I am interested in History, especially the history of SR-71. Married, Mother of three wonderful daughters and four extremely handsome grandsons. I live near Washington, DC.

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