The A-12 program was so secret that CIA injected with sodium pentothal the first pilot that bailed out of an Oxcart to interrogate him after the crash

General Curtis LeMay wanted a bomber variant of the A-12 but the SR-71 Blackbird was developed instead

By Linda Sheffield Miller
Sep 26 2021
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General Curtis LeMay needed Johnson to convert the A-12 variant of the Blackbird to an extended range deep penetration bomber that the Russians could not stop.

In June 1961 after President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev had their meeting, Kennedy was convinced that they were on the brink of World War III. In fact the two leaders had discussed it. The meeting had not gone well.

General Curtis LeMay (at the time vice chief of staff of the US Air Force) called Kelly Johnson and asked for an immediate visit. This time he was bringing his paycheck. He needed Johnson to convert the A-12 Oxcart to an extended range deep penetration bomber that the Russians could not stop. ‘He wanted our Blackbird to Nuke’em back to the Stone Age!,’ Ben Rich writes in his book Skunk Works. The Q-bay located behind the cockpits (later the ANS bay) was envisioned as the bomb bay.

He ordered 10 YF-12 interceptor’s a month! Plus a two seat version of the A-12 for the US Air Force (SR-71). The plan for the two seat version of the A-12 was to survey the damage after World War III.

He wanted the full gambit, reconnaissance, bombers, interceptors.

General Curtis LeMay wanted a bomber variant of the A-12 but the SR-71 Blackbird was developed instead
General view of the North American XB-70 Valkyrie and the Lockheed YF-12A in the Research and Development Gallery in the museum’s fourth building. Also pictured are the North American X-15A-2 and the Space Shuttle Exhibit on display in the Space Gallery at the National Museum of the US Air Force.

Ben Rich writes “for once Kelly was speechless.”

Johnson was more than happy to comply with his request, but LeMay was more interested in the XB-70 Valkyrie Mach 3 strategic bomber.

At one point General LeMay wanted to order both.

Sep. 21 was the anniversary of the maiden flight of the XB-70 that took place on Sep. 21, 1964 when North American Aviation test pilots Alvin S. White and Col Joseph F. Cotton flew the Valkyrie for the first time in a flight from Palmdale to Edwards AFB.

Eventually, the XB-70 was cancelled and although an A-12 version of a supersonic bomber was proposed it never materialized. Then the YF-12 was canceled.

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

The worries about World War III where subsided when the US found out, that the Russians nuclear arsenal buildup had been exaggerated and that they were not on the brink of developing a supersonic bomber. But this was the beginning and this led to the Skunk Works building 31 SR-71s.

Today the XB-70 and the YF- 12 interceptor are together forever… on display side-by-side unaware of the competition! They are at the United States National Museum of the Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

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

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird model
This model is available in multiple sizes 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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