Oxcart – A new CIA history of the Lockheed A-12

The Central Intelligence Agency has published a history of Oxcart, the super-secret programme that resulted in Lockheed’s Mach 3-plus A-12, YF-12A and SR-71 Blackbird.

The monograph, by CIA chief historian David Robarge, provides insight to the competition between Lockheed’s A-12 and Convair’s Kingfish – a remarkable-looking aircraft powered by the same Pratt & Whitney J58 engines, which promised lower radar cross-section but was judged to be higher risk.

Thanks to the website secretprojects.co.uk you can see some amazing artwork of the Kingfish by the great Jozef Gatial.

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Under the codename Gusto, the CIA in 1956 began looking for a high-speed, high-altitude replacement for the Lockheed U-2. The Skunk Works proposed a number of Archangel, or A-series designs:

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Convair proposed the Fish, a manned, Mach 4-plus ramjet-powered parasite aircraft to be launched from under the planned B-58B Super Hustler:

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Lockheed continued to evolve its design, eventually arriving at the A-11. This was rejected because its RCS was too large. Convair’s Fish was smaller, but cancellation of the B-58B in June 1959 put it out of the running.

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Convair and Lockheed submitted new proposals in August 1959: Convair proposed the Kingfish, a ground-launched aircraft powered by two J58s; and the Skunk Works proposed the A-12:

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The A-12 had better the performance, but the Kingfish had the smaller RCS. In the end, says Robarge, the Skunk Works’ success with the U-2 was measured against Convair’s problems with the B-58 and the rest, as they say, is history (which you can also read here).

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