Cold War Era

Clarence “Kelly” Johnson described the first flight of the top secret A-12 Oxcart as “horrible to watch.” Here’s why.

Upon returning to the runway, it was discovered that some of the A-12’s equipment was installed backwards.

On Apr. 26, 1962, the top secret A-12 “Oxcart” made its first flight at a non-existent airfield in Nevada. The aircraft, codenamed “Article 121”, began oscillating badly in the air and disappeared into a dust cloud which Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, the aircraft’s designer, described as “horrible to watch.” According to Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum Facebook Page, upon returning to the runway, it was discovered that some of the A-12’s equipment was installed backwards. The error was corrected and subsequent flights were performed without a hitch.

The top secret CIA aircraft, the replacement for the U-2, could fly at Mach 3 ( over 2,000 miles per hour) at an altitude greater than 80,000 feet.

The A-12 Oxcart was a super-secret, single-seater spy plane and was more secret and much rarer than the SR-71. In fact, the SR-71 was actually developed from the A-12.

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

Although it was meant to be the replacement for the U-2 spy plane, both it and the SR-71 were decommissioned before the U-2 (that still flies today).

According to Lockheed, the A-12 Oxcart was officially able to fly at 95,000ft and at 2,221 mph or at Mach 3.35. Compare that to 85,000ft and 2,112mph or Mach 3.2 of the SR-71. Though there are anecdotal stories of both aircraft surpassing the official records for speed and altitude.

The CIA operated the A-12 slightly under its capacity it seems because their documented numbers are slightly lower than Lockheed’s; about 3mph slower and 5000ft lower.

The following is a spec-sheet from the CIA’s official website.’

Both planes can be viewed side-by-side in Blackbird Park situated within Air Force Plant 42 next to Palmdale Regional Airport in Palmdale, California.

Photo credit: Lockheed Martin, U.S. Air Force and CIA

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

Recent Posts

The ringmaster’s Grand Finale: Legendary German Ace Adolf Galland recalls his last combat mission

Legendary German Ace Adolf Galland By far the best-known of Germany’s World War II fighter… Read More

3 hours ago

Impressive video shows 509th Bomb Wing and 131st Bomb Wing performing mass fly-off of 12 B-2 Spirit bombers

Mass fly-off of 12 B-2 stealth bombers Filmed on Apr. 15, 2024 15 at Whiteman… Read More

3 hours ago

Alligator blocks USAF KC-135 Stratotanker, fights with FWC Officers at MacDill AFB

Alligator blocks KC-135 Stratotanker Taken on Apr. 22, 2024 the curious photos in this post… Read More

23 hours ago

South Korean F-4 Phantom IIs conduct final live-fire training of AGM-142 Popeye before retirement

South Korean F-4 Phantom IIs conduct final live-fire training Ahead of the official retirement of… Read More

1 day ago