Cold War Era

Here’s why this JQB-47E has three YF-12 Kill Markings

JQB-47E 53-4256 was involved in the top secret project Kedlock.

The interesting photo in this post features JQB-47E 53-4256 which had been with the 3214th Operational Maintenance Squadron (OMS) at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) before being placed in storage at Davis Monthan AFB on Aug. 20, 1968. The YF-12 kill markings on the aircraft’s nose indicate three missions against (project) Kedlock.

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In March 1960, even before delivery of the first A-12 prototype, Lockheed and the U.S. Air Force (USAF) discussed development of an interceptor version of the A-12. Designed as the AF-12 under project Kedlock, the interceptor featured a Hughes ASG-18 pulse-Doppler radar system and launch bays for three AIM-47 missiles. A second crew position, located just behind the cockpit, accommodated a Fire Control Officer (FCO) to operate the missile launch system.

The first of three YF-12s flew in August 1963. In May 1965, the first and third YF-12s set several records, including a speed record of 2,070.101 mph and an altitude record of 80,257.65 feet. For their speed record flight, Col. Robert L. “Fox” Stephens (pilot) and Lt. Col. Daniel Andre (fire control officer) received the 1965 Thompson Trophy.

The aircraft’s mission was to intercept new Soviet supersonic bombers long before they reached the United States. The Air Force initially envisioned a fleet of as many as 100, but only three were built and delivered during 1963-64. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara cancelled Kedlock in early 1968 as a cost-cutting measure, and the aircraft were never deployed operationally.

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CIA was involved with the project only in giving up three A‑12 airframes and helping write “black” contracts. The Air Force bore all the costs of the YF-12A, which was superseded by the F-111. Two of the aircraft were given to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for research, and one was converted into a trainer for the SR-71 program.

According to Monthan Memories “there were 7 test shots from YF-12A interceptors; one shot downed a sister QB-47E drone over the Pt. Mugu/Pacific Missile test range. The B-47 has a photo nose, and was one of only a few RB-47s built stock for the photo mission… a source also said that there were arresting gear behind the fuselage wheels for drone recovery.  The odd under-wing apparatus is part of a target measuring device to tell how close a missile passed by the drone.”

Photo credit: Neil Aird via Monthan Memories

Artwork courtesy of

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.

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