Cold War Era

This Aircraft was Faster than the SR-71 (Look Closely it’s not a Blackbird)

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.

The iconic SR-71 Blackbird spy plane is known for being the official record holder for the fastest jet-powered, piloted aircraft of all time.


However, there has actually been a legitimate, jet-powered, piloted aircraft that was faster than the SR-71, the A-12 Oxcart.

‘The A-12 Oxcart was a super-secret, single-seater spy plane and was more secret and much rarer than the SR-71,’ says Christian Nelson, an aviation expert, on Quora. ‘In fact, the SR-71 was actually developed from the A-12.’

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‘Despite bearing the marks of the USAF, it was developed for and only ever flown by the CIA. It was meant to be the replacement for the U-2 spy plane, though both it and the SR-71 was decommissioned before the U-2. I mean the U-2 still flies to this day, more than half a century after its first flight. So, fail marks on that account for the Ox-Bird sisters.

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‘Anyway, according to Lockheed (who designed and built them) 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.

‘Here’s a spec-sheet from the CIA’s official website.’

Nelson concludes:

‘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. So, like, go see it or something.’

Photo credit: 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.

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