SR-71 / A-12
Most of this is taken from Wikipeida - click here
Remarks from a pilot
The Lockheed A-12, designed for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) by Clarence Johnson at the Lockheed Skunk Works,[8] was the precursor of the SR-71. The A-12's first flight took place at Groom Lake (Area 51), Nevada, on 25 April 1962. It was equipped with the less powerful Pratt & Whitney J75 engines due to protracted development of the intended Pratt & Whitney J58. The J58s were retrofitted as they became available, and became the standard power plant for all subsequent aircraft in the series (A-12, YF-12, M-21) as well as the follow-on SR-71 aircraft.

Thirteen A-12s were built. Two A-12 variants were also developed, including three YF-12A interceptor prototypes, and two M-21 drone carrier variants. The cancellation of A-12 program was announced on 28 December 1966, due to budget concerns, and because of the forthcoming SR-71. The A-12 flew missions over North Korea in 1968 before its retirement.


SR-71 assembly line at Skunk WorksThe SR-71 designator is a continuation of the pre-1962 bomber series, which ended with the XB-70 Valkyrie. During the later period of its testing, the B-70 was proposed for a reconnaissance/strike role, with an RS-70 designation. When it was clear that the A-12 performance potential was much greater, the Air Force ordered a variant of the A-12 in December 1962.[11] Originally named R-12,[N 1] the Air Force version was longer and heavier than the A-12. Its fuselage was lengthened for additional fuel capacity to increase range. Its cockpit included a second seat and the chines were reshaped. Reconnaissance equipment included signals intelligence sensors, a side-looking radar and a photo camera.[11] The CIA's A-12 remained a better reconnaissance platform than the Air Force's R-12, however, especially since the A-12 flew higher and faster,[10] and with only one pilot it had room to carry a superior camera[10] and more instruments.[12]

During the 1964 campaign, Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater continually criticized President Lyndon B. Johnson and his administration for falling behind the Soviet Union in the research and development of new weapons systems. Johnson decided to counter this criticism by announcing the YF-12A Air Force interceptor (which also served as cover for the still-secret A-12) and, on 25 July 1964, the Air Force reconnaissance model. Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtis LeMay preferred the SR (Strategic Reconnaissance) designation and wanted the RS-71 to be named SR-71. Before the July speech, LeMay lobbied to modify Johnson's speech to read SR-71 instead of RS-71. The media transcript given to the press at the time still had the earlier RS-71 designation in places, creating the myth that the president had misread the aircraft's designation.[14][15]

This public disclosure of the program and its renaming came as a shock to everyone at the Skunk Works and to Air Force personnel involved in the program. All of the printed maintenance manuals, flight crew handbooks,[N 2] training slides and materials were labeled "R-12" and the 18 June 1965 Certificates of Completion issued by the Skunk Works to the first Air Force Flight Crews and their Wing Commander were labeled "R-12 Flight Crew Systems Indoctrination, Course VIII". Following Johnson's speech the name change was taken as an order from the Commander-in-Chief, and immediate reprinting began of new materials, including 29,000 blueprints, to be retitled "SR-71".
Operational history

A SR-71 refueling from a KC-135Q Stratotanker during a flight in 1983The first flight of an SR-71 took place on 22 December 1964, at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California.[48] The first SR-71 to enter service was delivered to the 4200th (later, 9th) Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, California, in January 1966.[49] The United States Air Force Strategic Air Command had SR-71 Blackbirds in service from 1966 through 1991.

SR-71s first arrived at the 9th SRW's Operating Location (OL-8) at Kadena Airbase, Okinawa on 8 March 1968.[50] These deployments were code named "Glowing Heat", while the program as a whole was code named "Senior Crown". Reconnaissance missions over North Vietnam were code named "Giant Scale".

On 21 March 1968, Major (later General) Jerome F. O'Malley and Major Edward D. Payne flew the first operational SR-71 sortie in SR-71 serial number 61-7976 from Kadena AB, Okinawa.[50] During its career, this aircraft (976) accumulated 2,981 flying hours and flew 942 total sorties (more than any other SR-71), including 257 operational missions, from Beale AFB; Palmdale, California; Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan; and RAF Mildenhall, England. The aircraft was flown to the National Museum of the United States Air Force near Dayton, Ohio in March 1990.

From the beginning of the Blackbird's reconnaissance missions over enemy territory (North Vietnam, Laos, etc.) in 1968, the SR-71s averaged approximately one sortie a week for nearly two years. By 1970, the SR-71s were averaging two sorties per week, and by 1972, they were flying nearly one sortie every day.

While deployed in Okinawa, the SR-71s and their aircrew members gained the nickname Habu (as did the A-12s preceding them) after a pit viper indigenous to Japan, which the Okinawans thought the plane resembled.[2]

Swedish JA 37 Viggen fighter pilots, using the predictable patterns of SR-71 routine flights over the Baltic Sea, managed to lock their radar on the SR-71 on numerous occasions. Despite heavy jamming from the SR-71, target illumination was maintained by feeding target location from ground-based radars to the fire-control computer in the Viggen.[51] The most common site for the lock-on to occur was the thin stretch of international airspace between Íland and Gotland that the SR-71 used on the return flight.[52][53][54]

Operational highlights for the entire Blackbird family (YF-12, A-12, and SR-71) as of about 1990 included:

3,551 Mission Sorties Flown
17,300 Total Sorties Flown
11,008 Mission Flight Hours
53,490 Total Flight Hours
2,752 hours Mach 3 Time (Missions)
11,675 hours Mach 3 Time (Total)
Only one crew member, Jim Zwayer, a Lockheed flight-test reconnaissance and navigation systems specialist, was killed in a flight accident. The rest of the crew members ejected safely or evacuated their aircraft on the ground.

The highly specialized tooling used in manufacturing the SR-71 was ordered to be destroyed in 1968 by then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, per contractual obligations at the end of production.  Destroying the tooling killed any chance of there being an F-12B, but also limited the SR-71 force to the 32 completed, the final SR-71 order having to be cancelled when the tooling was destroyed.