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In all of the following postings a (X), where X is either 'S' or 'C' or 'U',
written next to the start of the following title, paragraph, or footnote
indicates that title, paragraph, or footnote was originally classified Secret,
Classified, or Unclassified.

Some typos have been introduced during transcribing and transmission.


Thomas P. McIninch

(S) One spring day in 1962 a test pilot named Louis Schalk, employed by the
Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, took off from the Nevada desert in an aircraft
the like of which had never been seen before. A casual observer would have
been startled by the appearance of this vehicle; he would perhaps have noticed
especially its extremely long, slim, shape, its two enormous jet engines, its
long sharp, projecting nose, and its swept-back wings which appeared far too
short to support the fuselage in flight. He might well have realized that this
was a revolutionary airplane; he could not have known that it would be able to
fly at three times the speed of sound for more than 3,000 miles without
refueling, or that toward the end of its flight, when fuel began to run low,
it could cruise at over 90,000 feet. Still less would he have known of the
equipment it was to carry, or of the formidable problems attending its design
and construction.

(U) There was, of course, no casual observer present. The aircraft had been
designed and built for reconnaissance; it was projected as a successor to the
U-2. Its development had been carried out in profound secrecy. Despite the
numerous designers, engineers, skilled and unskilled workers, administrators
and others who had been involved in the affair, no authentic accounts, and
indeed scarcely any accounts at all, had leaked. Many aspects have not been
revealed to this day, and many are likely to remain classified for some time to

(S) The official designation of the aircraft was A-12. By a sort of inspired
perversity, however, it came to be called OXCART, a code word also applied
to the program under which it was developed. The secrecy in which it was so
long shrouded has lifted a bit, and the purpose of this article is to give
some account of the inception, development, operation, and untimely demise of
this remarkable airplane. The OXCART no longer flies, but it left a legacy of
technological achievement which points the way to new projects. And it
became the progenitor of a similar but somewhat less sophisticated
reconnaissance vehicle called the SR-71, whose existence is well known to
press and public.

(S) Sequel to the U-2

(S) The U-2 dated from 1954, when its development began under the
direction of a group headed by Richard M. Bissell of CIA. In June 1956, the
aircraft became operational, but officials predicted that its useful lifetime
over the USSR could hardly be much more than 18 months or two years. Its first
flight over Soviet territory revealed that the defense warning system not only
detected but tracked it quite accurately. Yet, it remained a unique and
invaluable source of intelligence information for almost four years, until on
1 May 1960, Francis Gary Powers was shot down near Sverdlovsk.

(U) Meanwhile, even as the U-2 commenced its active carreer, efforts were
under way to make it less vulnerable. The hope was to reduce the vehicle's
radar cross-section, so that it would become less susceptible to detection. New
developments in radar-absorbing materials were tried out and achieved
considerable success, though not enough to solve the problem. Various far-out
designs were explored, most of them seeking to create an aircraft capable of
flying at extremely high altitudes, though still at relatively slow speed. None
of them proved practicable.

(S) Eventually, in the fall of 1957, Bissell arranged with a contractor for a
job of operations analysis to determine how far the probability of shooting
down an airplane varied respectively with the plane's speed, altitude, and
radar cross-section. This analysis demonstrated that supersonic speed greatly
reduced the chances of detection by radar. The probability of being shot down
was not of course reduced to zero, but it was evident that the supersonic line
of approach was worth serious consideration. Therefore, from this time on,
attention focused increasingly on the possibility of building a vehicle which
could fly at extremely high speeds as well as great altitudes, and which
would also incorporate the best that could be attained in radar-absorbing
capabilities. Lockheed Aircraft Corporation and Convair Division of General
Dynamics were informed of the general requirements, and their designers set
to work on the problem without as yet receiving any contract or funds from
the government. From the fall of 1957 to late 1958 these designers constantly
refined and adapted their respective schemes.

(S) Bissell realized that development and production of such an aircraft
would be exceedingly expensive, and that in the early stages at least it would
be doubtful whether the project could succeed. To secure the necessary funds
for such a program, high officials would have to receive the best and most
authoritative presentation of whatever prospects might unfold. Accordingly,
he got together a panel consisting of two distinguished authorities on aero-
dynamics and one physicist, with E. M. Land of the Polaroid Corporation as
chairman. Between 1957 and 1959 this panel met about six times, usually in
Land's office in Cambridge. Lockheed and Convair designers attended during
parts of the sessions. So also did the Assistant Secretaries of the Air Force
and Navy concerned with research and development, together with one or two of
their technical advisors. One useful consequence of the participation of
service representatives was that bureaucratic and jurisdictional feuds were
reduced virtually to nil. Throughout the program both Air Force and Navy gave
valuable assistance and cooperation.

(S) As the months went by, the general outlines of what might be done took
shape in the minds of those concerned. Late in November 1958, the members
of the panel held a crucial meeting. They agreed that it now appeared feasible
to build an aircraft of such speed and altitude as to be very difficult to
track by radar. They recommended that the president be asked to approve in
principle a further prosecution of the project, and to make funds available for
further studies and tests. The president and his Scientific Advisor, Dr. James
Killian were already aware of what was going on, and when CIA officials
went to them with the recommendations of the panel they received a favorable
hearing. The President gave his approval. Lockheed and Convair were then
asked to submit definite proposals, funds were made available to them, and
the project took on the code name GUSTO.

(C) Less than a year later the two proposals were essentially complete, and on
20 July 1959, the President was again briefed. This time he gave final
approval, which signified that the program could get fully under way.

(C) The next major step was to choose between the Lockheed and Convair
designs. On 20 August 1959 specifications of the two proposals were submitted
to a joint DOD/USAF/CIA selection panel:

Lockheed Convair

Speed Mach 3.2 Mach 3.2
Range (total) 4,120 n.m. 4,000 n.m.
Range (at altitude) 3,800 n.m. 3,400 n.m.

Cruise Altitudes

Start 84,500 ft. 85,000 ft.
Mid-range 91,000 ft. 88,000 ft.
End 97,600 ft. 94,000 ft.


Length 102 ft. 79.5 ft.
Span 57 ft. 56.0 ft.
Gross Weight 110,000 lbs. 101,700 lbs.
Fuel Weight 64,600 lbs. 62,000 lbs.
First Flight 22 months 22 months

(S) The Lockheed design was selected, Project GUSTO terminated, and the
program to develop a new U-2 follow-on aircraft was names OXCART. On 3
September 1959, CIA authorized Lockheed to proceed with antiradar studies,
aerodynamic structural tests, and engineering designs, and on 30 January 1960
gave the green light to produce 12 aircraft.

(S) Pratt and Whitney Division of United Aircraft Corporation had been
involved in discussions of the project, and undertook to develop the propulsion
system. Their J-58 engine, which was to be used in the A-12, had been
sponsored originally by the US Navy for its own purposes, and was to be
capable of a speed of Mach 3.0. Navy interest in the development was
diminishing, however, and the Secretary of Defense had decided to withdraw
from the program at the end of 1959. CIA's requirement was that the engine
and aircraft be further developed and optimized for a speed of Mach 3.2. The
new contract called for initial assembly of three advanced experimental
engines for durability and reliability testing, and provision of three engines
for experimental flight testing in early 1961.

(S) The primary camera manufacturer was Perkin-Elmer. Because of the
extreme complexity of the design, however, a decision was soon made that a
back-up system might be necessary in the event the Perkin-Elmer design ran
into production problems, and Eastman Kodak was also asked to build a
camera. Minneapolis-Honeywell Corporation was selected to provide both the
inertial navigation and automatic flight control system. The Firewell Corpora-
tion and the David Clark Corporation became the prime sources of pilot
equipment and associated life support hardware.

(U) Lockheed's designer was Clarence L. (Kelly) Johnson, creator of the U-2,
and he called his new vehicle not A-12 but A-11. Its design exhibited many
innovations. Supersonic airplanes, however, involve a multitude of extremely
difficult design problems. Their payload-range performance is highly sensitive
to engine weight, structural weight, fuel consumption, and aerodynamic
efficiency. Small mistakes in predicting these values can lead to large errors
in performance. Models of the A-11 were tested and retested, adjusted and
readjusted, during thousands of hours in the wind tunnel. Johnson was
confident of his design, but no one could say positively whether the bird would
fly, still less whether it would fulfill the extremely demanding requirements
laid down for it.

(U) To make the drawings and test the model was one thing; to build the air-
craft was another. The most numerous problems arose from the simple fact
that in flying through the atmosphere at its designed speed the skin of the
aircraft would be subjected to a temperature of more than 550 degrees
Fahrenheit. For one thing, no metal hitherto commonly used in aircraft
production would stand this temperature, and those which would do so were
for the most part too heavy to be suitable for the purpose in hand.

(S) During the design phase Lockheed evaluated many materials and finally
chose an alloy of titanium, characterized by great strength, relatively light
weight, and good resistance to high temperatures. Titanium was also scarce
and very costly. Methods for milling it and controlling the quality of the
product were not fully developed. Of the early deliveries from Titanium
Metals Corporation some 80 percent had to be rejected, and it was not until
1961, when a delegation from headquarters visited the officials of that
company, informed them of the objectives and high priority of the OXCART
program, and gained their full cooperation, that the supply became consist-
ently satisfactory.

(S) But this only solved an initial problem. One of the virtues of titanium was
its exceeding hardness, but this very virtue gave rise to immense difficulties
in machining and shaping the material. Drills which worked well on aluminum
soon broke to pieces; new ones had to be devised. Assembly-line production
was impossible; each of the small OXCART fleet was, so to speak, turned out
by hand. The cost of the program mounted well above original estimates, and
it soon began to run behind schedule. One after another, however, the
problems were solved, and their solution constituted the greatest single
technological achievement of the entire enterprise. Henceforth it became
practicable, if expensive, to build aircraft out of titanium.

(S) Since every additional pound of weight was critical, adequate insulation
was out of the question. The inside of the aircraft would be like a moderately
hot oven. The pilot would have to wear a kind of space suit, with its own cool-
ing apparatus, pressure control, oxygen supply, and other necessities for
survival. The fuel tanks, which constituted by far the greater part of the
aircraft, would heat up to about 350 degrees, so that special fuel had to be
supplied and the tanks themselves rendered inert with nitrogen. Lubricating oil
was formulated for operation at 600 degrees F., and contained a diluent in
order to remain fluid at operation below 40 degrees. Insulation on the plane's
intricate wiring soon became brittle and useless. During the lifetime of the
OXCART no better insulation was found; the wiring and related connectors
had to be given special attention and handling at great cost in labor and time.

(S) Then there was the unique problem of the camera window. The
OXCART was to carry a delicate and highly sophisticated camera, which
would look out through a quartz glass window. The effectiveness of the whole
system depended upon achieving complete freedom from optical distortion
despite the great heat to which the window would be subjected. Thus the
question was not simply one of providing equipment with resistance to high
temperature, but of assuring that there should be no unevenness of tempera-
ture throughout the area of the window. It took three years of time and two
million dollars of money to arrive at a satisfactory solution. The program
scored one of its most remarkable successes when the quartz glass was
successfully fused to its metal frame by an unprecedented process involving
the use of high frequency sound waves.

(S) Another major problem of different nature was to achieve the low radar
cross-section desired. The airframe areas giving the greatest radar return were
the vertical stabilizers, the engine inlet, and the forward side of the engine
nacelles. Research in ferrites, high temperature absorbing materials and high-
temperature plastic structures was undertaken to find methods to reduce the
return. Eventually the vertical tail section fins were constructed from a kind
of laminated "plastic" material-the first time that such a material had been
used for an important part of an aircraft's structure. With such changes in
structural materials, the A-11 was redesignated A-12, and as such has never
been publically disclosed.

(C) To test the effectiveness of antiradar devices a small-scale model is
inadequate; only a full-size mock-up will do. Lockheed accordingly built one
of these, and as early as November 1959, transported it in a specially designed
trailer truck over hundreds of miles of highway from the Burbank plant to the
test area. Here it was hoisted to the top of a pylon and looked at from various
angles by radar. Tests and adjustments went on for a year and a half before the
results were deemed satisfactory. In the course of the process it was found
desirable to attach some sizable metallic constructions on each side of the
fuselage, and Kelly Johnson worried a good deal about the effect of these
protuberances on his design. In flight tests, however, it later developed that
they imparted a useful aerodynamic lift to the vehicle, and years afterward
Lockheed's design for a supersonic transport embodied similar structures.

(S) Pilots for the OXCART would obviously have to be of quite extraordinary
competence, not only because of the unprecedented performance of the
aircraft itself, but also because of the particluar qualities needed in men who
were to fly intelligence missions. Brigadier General Don Flickinger, of the Air
Force, was designated to draw up the criteria for selection, with advice from
Kelly Johnson and from CIA Headquarters. Pilots had to be qualified in the
latest high performance fighters, emotionally stable, and well motivated. They
were to be between 25 and 40 years of age, and the size of the A-12 cockpit
prescribed that they be under six feet tall and under 175 pounds in weight.

(S) Air Force files were screened for possible candidates and a list of pilots
obtained. Psychological assessments, physical examinations and refinement of
criteria eliminated a good many. Pre-evaluation processing resulted in sixteen
potential nominees. This group underwent a further intensive security and
medical scrutiny by the Agency. Those who remained were then approached
to take employment with the Agency on a highly classified project involving a
very advanced aircraft. In November 1961, commitments were obtained from
five of the group. The small number recruited at this stage required that a
second search be undertaken.

(S) When the final screening was complete the pilots selected from the
program were William L. Skliar, Kenneth S. Collins, Walter Ray, Lon Walter,
Mele Vojvodich, Jr., Jack W. Weeks, Ronald "Jack" Layton, Dennis B.
Sullivan, David P. Young, Francis J. Murray, and Russell Scott. After the
selection, arrangements were made with the Air Force to effect appropriate
transfers and assignments to cover their training and to lay the basis for
their transition from military to civilian status. Compensation and insurance
arrangements were similar to those for the U-2 pilots.

(U) One thing to be decided in the earliest stages of the program was where to
base and test the aircraft. Lockheed clearly could not do the business at
Burbank, where the aircraft were being built, if for no other reason that its
runway was too short. The ideal location ought to be remote from metropoli-
tan areas; well away from civil and military airways to preclude observation;
easily accessible by air; blessed with good weather the year round; capable of
accommodating large numbers of personnel; equipped with fuel storage
facilities; fairly close to an Air Force installation; and possessing at least
an 8,000 foot runway. There was no such place to be found.

(S) Ten Air Force bases programmed for closure were considered, but none
provided the necessary security, and annual operating costs at most of them
would be unacceptable. Edwards Air Force Base in California seemed a more
likely candidate, but in the end it also was passed over. Instead a secluded
site in Nevada was finally picked. It was deficient in personnel accomodations
and POL storage, and its long-unused runway was inadequate, but security
was good, or could be made so, and a moderate construction program could
provide sufficient facilities. Lockheed estimated what would be needed in
such respects as monthly fuel consumption, hangars and shop space, housing
for personnel, and runway specifications. Armed with the list of major
requirements, Headquarters came up with a construction and engineering
plan. And in case anyone became curious about what was going on at this re-
mote spot, a cover story stated that the facilities were being prepared for
certain radar studies, to be conducted by an engineering firm with support
from the Air Force. The remote location was explained as necessary to reduce
the effect of electronic interference from outside sources.

(S) Excellent as it may have been from the point of view of security, the site
at first afforded few of the necessities and none of the amenities of life.
It was far from any metropolitan center. Lockheed provided a C-47 shuttle
service to its plant at Burbank, and a chartered D-18 (Lodestar) furnished
transportation to Las Vegas. Daily commuting was out of the question, however,
and the construction workers arriving during 1960 were billeted in surplus
trailers. A new water well was dug, and a few recreational facilities provided,
but it was some time before accomodations became agreeable. **

** This footnote did NOT appear in the original document. It is the method I
will use to indicate marginal notes that were hand written, at the location of
'**' in the original document. The marginal note states:


(S) Among the lesser snags, one existed because the laws of Nevada required
the names of all contractor personnel staying in the state for more than 48
hours to be reported to state authorities. It was generally felt that to list
all these names and identify the companies involved would be likely to give the
whole show away. The Agency's General Counsel, however, discovered that
Government employees were exempted from these requirements. Thenceforth
all contractor personnel going to the site received appointments as Govern-
ment consultants, and if questions were asked the reply could be that no one
but government employees were at this site.

(C) Construction began in earnest in September 1960, and continued on a
double-shift schedule until mid-1964. One of the most urgent tasks was to
build the runway, which according to initial estimates of A-12 requirements
must be 8,500 feet long. The existing asphalt runway was 5,000 feet long and
incapable of supporting the weight of the A-12. The new one was built
between 7 September and 15 November and involved pouring over 25,000
yards of concrete. Another major problem was to provide some 500,000 gallons
of PF-1 aircraft fuel per month. Neither storage facilities nor means of
transporting fuel existed. After considering airlift, pipeline, and truck
transport, it was decided that the last-named was the most economical, and
could be made feasible by resurfacing no more than eighteen miles of highway
leading into the base.

(C) Three surplus Navy hangars were obtained, dismantled, and erected on
the north side of the base. Over 100 surplus Navy housing buildings were
transported to the base and made ready for occupancy. By early 1962 a fuel
tank farm was ready, with a capacity of 1,320,000 gallons. Warehousing and
shop space was begun and repairs made to older buildings. All this, together
with the many other facilities that had to be provided, took a long time to
complete. Meanwhile, however, the really essential facilities were ready in
time for the forecast delivery date of Aircraft No. 1 in August 1961.

(S) The facilities were ready, but the aircraft were not. Originally promised
for delivery at the end of May 1961, the date first slipped to August, largely
because of Lockheed's difficulties in procuring and fabricating titanium.
Moreover, Pratt & Whitney found unexpectedly great trouble in bringing the
J-58 engine up to OXCART requirements. In March 1961, Kelly Johnson
notified Headquarters:

(U) "Schedules are in jeopardy on two fronts. One is the assembly of the
wing and the other is in satisfactory development of the engine.
Our evaluation shows that each of these programs is from three to
four months behind the current schedule."

(S)To this Bissell replied:
(U) "I have learned of your expected additional delay in first flight
from 30 August to 1 December 1961. This news is extremely
shocking on top of our previous slippage from May to August and
my understanding as of our meeting 19 December that the titanium
extrusion problems were essentially overcome. I trust this is the last
of such disappointments short of a severe earthquake in Burbank."

(U) Realizing that delays were causing the cost of the program to soar,
Headquarters decided to place a top-level aeronautical engineer in residence
at Lockheed to monitor the program and submit progress reports.

(C) Delays nevertheless persisted. On 11 September, Pratt and Whitney
informed Lockheed of their continuing difficulties with the J-58 engine in
terms of weight, delivery, and performance. Completion date for Aircraft
No. 1 by now had slipped to 22 December 1961, and the first flight to 27 Feb-
ruary 1962. Even on this last date the J-58 would not be ready, and it was
therefore decided that a Pratt and Whitney J-75 engine, designed for the F-105
and flown in the U-2, should be used for early flights. The engine, along with
other components, could be fitted to the A-12 airframe, and it could power the
aircraft safely to altitudes up to 50,000 feet and at speeds up to Mach 1.6.

(S) When this decision had been made, final preparations were begun for the
testing phase. In late 1961 Colonel Robert J. Holbury, USAF, was named
Commander of the base, with the Agency employee as his Deputy. Support
aircraft began arriving in the spring of 1962. These included eight F-101's for
training, two T-33's for proficiency flying, a C-130 for cargo transport, a
U-3A for administration purposes, a helicopter for search and rescue, and a
Cessna-180 for liaison use. In addition, Lockheed provided an F-104 to act as
chase aircraft during the A-12 flight test period.

(S) Meanwhile in January 1962, an agreement was reached with the Federal
Aviation Agency that expanded the restricted airspace in the vicinity of the
test area. Certain FAA air traffic controllers were cleared for the OXCART
Project; their function was to insure that aircraft did not violate the order.
The North American Air Defense Command established procedures to prevent
their radar stations from reporting the appearance of high performance
aircraft on their radar scopes.

(S) Refueling concepts required prepositioning of vast quantities of fuel at
certain points outside the United States. Special tank farms were programmed
in California, Eielson AFB Alaska, Thule AB Greenland, Kadena AB Okinawa,
and Adana, Turkey. Since the A-12 use specially refined fuel, these tank farms
were reserved exclusively for use by the OXCART Program. Very small
detachments of technicians at these locations maintained the fuel storage
vfacility and arranged for periodic quality control fuel tests.

(S) At the Lockheed Burbank plant, Aircraft No. 1 (serially numbered 121)
received its final tests and checkout during January and February 1962, and
was partially disassembled for shipment to the site. It became clear very early
in OXCART planning that because of security problems and the inadequate
runway, the A-12 could not fly from Burbank. Movement of the full-scale
radar test model had been successfully accomplished in November 1959, as
described above. A thorough survey of the route in June 1961, ascertained the
hazards and problems of moving the actual aircraft, and showed that a
package measuring 35 feet wide and 105 feet long could be transported
without major difficulty. Obstructing road signs had to be removed, trees
trimmed, and some roadsides levelled. Appropriate arrangements were made
with police authorities and local officials to accomplish the safe transport of
the aircraft. The entire fuselage, minus wings, was crated, covered, and loaded
on the special-design trailer, which cost about $100,000. On 26 February 1962,
it departed Burbank, and arrived at the base according to plan.

(S) First Flights

(U) Upon arrival reassembly of the aircraft and installation of the J-75
engines began. Soon it was found that aircraft tank sealing compounds had
failed to adhere to the metals, and when fuel was put into the tanks numerous
leaks occurred. It was necessary to strip the tanks of the faulty sealing
compounds and reline them with new materials. Thus occurred one more
unexpected and exasperating delay in the program.

(U) Finally, on 26 April 1962, Aircraft 121 was ready. On that day in
accordance with Kelly Johnson's custom, Louis Schalk took it for an unofficial,
unannounced, maiden flight lasting some 40 minutes. As in all maiden flights
minor problems were detected, but it took only four more days to ready the
aircraft for its first official flight.

(U) On 30 April 1962, just under one year later than originally planned, the
A-12 officially lifted her wheels from the runway. Piloted again by Louis
Schalk, it took off at 170 knots, with a gross weight of 72,000 pounds, and
climbed to 30,000 feet. Top speed was 340 knots and the flight lasted 59
minutes. The pilot reported that the aircraft responded well and was
extremely stable. Kelly Johnson declared it to be the smoothest official first
flight of any aircraft he had designed or tested. The aircraft broke the sound
barrier on its second official flight, 4 May 1962, reaching Mach 1.1. Again
only minor problems were reported.

(S) With these flights accomplished, jubilation was the order of the day. The
new Director of Central Intelligence, Mr. John McCone, sent a telegram of
congratulation to Kelly Johnson. A critical phase had been triumphantly
passed, but there remained the long, difficult, and sometimes discouraging
process of working the aircraft up to full operational performance.

(C) Aircraft No. 122 arrived at base on 26 June, and spent three months in
radar testing before engine installations and final assembly. Aircraft No. 123
arrived in August and flew in October. Aircraft No. 124, a two-seated version
intended for use in training project pilots, was delivered in November. It was
to be powered by the J-58 engines, but delivery delays and a desire to begin
pilot training prompted a decision to install the smaller J-75's. The trainer
flew initially in January 1963. The fifth aircraft, No. 125, arrived at the
area on 17 December.

(S) Meanwhile the OXCART program received a shot in the arm from the
Cuban missile crisis. U-2's had been maintaining a regular reconnaissance vigil
over the island, and it was on one of these missions in October that the
presence of offensive missiles was discovered. Overflights thereafter became
more frequent, but on 27 October an Agency U-2, flown by a Strategic Air
Force pilot on a SAC-directed mission, was shot down by a surface-to-air
missile. This raised the dismaying possibility that continued manned, high-
altitude surveillance of Cuba might become out of the question. The
OXCART program suddenly assumed greater significance than ever, and its
achievement of operational status became one of the highest national

(S) At the end of 1962 there were two A-12 aircraft engaged in flight tests. A
speed of Mach 2.16 and altitude of 60,000 feet had been achieved. Progress
was still slow, however, because of delays in the delivery of engines and
shortcomings in the performance of those delivered. One of the two test
aircraft was still flying with two J-75 engines, and the other with one J-75
and one J-58. It had long since become clear that Pratt & Whitney had been too
optimistic in their forecast; the problem of developing the J-58 up to
OXCART specifications had proved a good deal more recalcitrant than
expected. Mr. McCone judged the situation to be truly serious, and on 3
December he wrote to the President of United Aircraft Corporation.

(U) "I have been advised that J-58 engine deliveries have been delayed
again due to engine control production problems....By the end of
the year it appears we will have barely enough J-58 engines to
support the flight test program adequately....Furthernore, due to
various engine difficulties we have not yet reached design speed and
altitude. Engine thrust and fuel consumption deficiencies at pres-
ent prevent sustained flight at design conditions which is so
necessary to complete developments."

(U) By the end of January 1963, ten engines were available, and the first
flight with two of them installed occurred on 15 January. Thenceforth all A-12
aircraft were fitted with their intended propulsion system. Flight testing
accelerated and contractor personnel went to a three-shift work day.

(U) With each succeeding step into a high Mach regime new problems
presented themselves. The worst of all these difficulties-indeed one of the
most formidable in the entire history of the program-was revealed when
flight testing moved into speeds between Mach 2.4 and 2.8, and the aircraft
experienced such severe roughness as to make its operation virtually out of the
question. The trouble was diagnosed as being in the air inlet system, which
with its controls admitted air to the engine. At the higher speeds the flow of
air was uneven, and the engine therefore could not function properly. Only
after a long period of experimentation, often highly frustrating and
irritating, was a solution reached. This further postponed the day when the
A-12 could be declared operationally ready.

(U) Among more mundane troubles was the discovery that various nuts, bolts,
clamps, and other debris of the manufacturing process had not been cleared
** away, and upon engine runup or take-off were sucked into the engine. The
engine parts were machined to such close tolerances that they could be
ruined in this fashion. Obviously the fault was due to sheer carelessness.

** This footnote did NOT appear in the original document. It is the method I
will use to indicate marginal notes that were hand written, at the location of
'**' in the original document. The marginal note states:

hasn't changed

(U) Inspection procedures were revised, and it was also found prudent at
Burbank to hoist the engine nacelles into the air, rock them back and
forth, listen for loose objects, and then remove them by hand.

(S) While on a routine flight, 24 May 1963, one of the detachment pilots rec-
ognized an erroneous and confusing air speed indication and decided to eject
from the aircraft, which crashed 14 miles south of Wendover, Utah. The pilot
Kenneth Collins, was unhurt. The wreckage was recovered in two days, and
persons at the scene were indentified and requested to sign secrecy agreements.
A cover story for the press described the accident as occurring to a F-105, and
is still listed in this way on official records.

(U) All A-12 aircraft were grounded for a week during investigation of the
accident. A plugged pitot static tube in icing conditions turned out to be
responsible for the faulty cockpit instrument indications-it was not some-
thing which would hold things up for long.

(S) Loss of this aircraft nevertheless precipitated a policy problem which had
been troubling the Agency for some time. With the growing number of A-12's,
how much longer could the project remain secret? The program had gone
through development, construction, and a year of flight testing without
attracting public attention. But the Department of Defense was having
difficulty in concealing its participation because of the increasing rate of
expenditures, otherwise unexplained. There was also a realization that the
technological data would be extremely valuable in connection with feasibility
studies for the SST. Finally, there was a growing awareness in the higher
reaches of the aircraft industry that something new and remarkable was going
on. Rumors spread, and gossip flew about. Commercial airline crews sighted
the OXCART in flight. The editor of Aviation Week (as might be expected)
indicated his knowledge of developments at Burbank. The secrecy was
thinning out.

(S) The President's Announcement

(U) In spite of all this, 1963 went by without any public revelation. President
Johnson was brought up to date on the project a week after taking office, and
directed that a paper be prepared for an announcement in the spring of 1964.
Then at his press conference on 24 February, he read a statement of which the
first paragraph was as follows:

(U) "The United States has successfully developed an advanced experi-
mental jet aircraft, the A-11, which has been tested in sustained
flight at more than 2,000 miles per hour and at altitudes in excess of
70,000 feet. The performance of the A-11 far exceeds that of any
other aircraft in the world today. The development of this aircraft
has been made possible by major advances in aircraft technology of
great significance for both military and commercial applications.
Several A-11 aircraft are now being flight tested at Edwards Air
Force Base in California. The existence of this program is being
disclosed today to permit the orderly exploitation of this advanced
technology in our military and commercial program."

(U)The president went on to mention the "mastery of the metallurgy and
fabrication of titanium metal" which has been achieved, gave credit to
Lockheed and to Pratt & Whitney, remarked that appropriate members of the
Senate and House had been kept fully informed, and prescribed that the
detailed performance of the A-11 would be kept strictly classified.

(S) The President's reference to the "A-11" was of course deliberate. "A-11"
had been the original design designation for the all-metal aircraft first
proposed by Lockheed; subsequently it became the design designation for the
Air Force YF-12A interceptor which differed from its parent mainly in that it
carried a second man for launching air-to-air missiles. To preserve the
distinction between the A-11 and the A-12 Security had briefed practically all
witting personnel in government and industry on the impending announce-
ment. OXCART secrecy continued in effect. There was considerable specula-
tion about an Agency role in the A-11 development, but it was never
acknowledged by the government. News headlines ranged from "US has
dozen A-11 jets already flying" to "Secret of sizzling new plane probably
history's best kept."

(U) The President also said that "the A-11 aircraft now at Edwards Air Force
Base are undergoing extensive tests to determine their capabilities as long-
range interceptors." It was true that the Air Force in October 1960, had
contracted for three interceptor versions of the A-12, and they were by this
time available. But at the moment when the President spoke, there were no
A-11's at Edwards and there never had been. Project officials had known that
the public announcement was about to be made, but they had not been told
exactly when. Caught by surprise, they hastily flew two Air Force YF-12A's to
Edwards to support the President's statement. So rushed was this operation, so
speedily were the aircraft put into hangars upon arrival, that heat from them
activated the hangar sprinkler system, dousing the reception team which
awaited them.

(S) Thenceforth, while the OXCART continued its secret career at its own
site, the A-11 performed at Edwards Air Force Base in a considerable glare of
publicity. Pictures of the aircraft appeared in the press, correspondents could
look at it and marvel, stories could be written. Virtually no details were made
available, but the technical journals nevertheless had a field day. The
unclassified Air Force and Space Digest, for example, published a long article
in its issue of April 1964, commencing: "The official pictures and statements
tell very little about the A-11. But the technical literature from open
sources, when carefully interpreted, tells a good deal about what it could and,
more importantly, what it could not be. Here's the story ..."

(S) Going Operational

(U) Three years and seven months after first flight in April 1962 the
OXCART was declared ready for operational use at design specifications. The
period thus devoted to flight tests was remarkably short, considering the new
fields of aircraft performance which were being explored. As each higher
Mach number was reached exhaustive tests were carried out in accordance
with standard procedures to ensure that the aircraft functioned properly and
safely. Defects were corrected and improvements made. All concerned gained
experience with the particular characteristics and idiosyncrasies of the

(S) The air inlet and related control continued for a long time to present the
most troublesome and refractory problem. Numerous attempts failed to find a
remedy, even though a special task force concentrated on the task. For a time
there was something approaching despair, and the solution when finally
achieved was greeted with enormous relief. After all, not every experimental
aircraft of advanced performance has survived its flight testing period. The
possibility existed that OXCART also would fail, despite the great cost and
effort expended upon it.

(S) A few dates and figures will serve to mark the progress of events. By the
end of 1963 there had been 573 flights totalling 765 hours. Nine aircraft were
in the inventory. On 20 July 1963 test aircraft flew for the first time at Mach
3; in November Mach 3.2 (the design speed) was reached at 78,000 feet
altitude. The longest sustained flight at design conditions occurred on 3
February 1964; it lasted to ten minutes at Mach 3.2 and 83,000 feet. By the
end of 1964 there had been 1,160 flights, totalling 1,616 hours. Eleven
aircraft were then available, four of them reserved for testing and seven
assigned to the detachment.

(C) The record may be put in another way. Mach 2 was reached after six
months of flying; Mach 3 after 15 months. Two years after the first flight the
aircraft had flown a total of 38 hours at Mach 2, three hours at Mach 2.6, and
less than one hour at Mach 3. After three years, Mach 2 time had increased to
60 hours, Mach 2.6 time time to 33 hours, and Mach 3 time to nine hours; all
Mach 3 time, however, was by test aircraft, and detachment aircraft were still
restricted to mach 2.9.

(S) As may be seen from the figures, most flights were of short duration,
averaging little more than an hour each. Primarily this was because longer
flights were unnecessary at this stage of testing. It was also true, however,
that the less seen of OXCART the better, and short flights helped to preserve
the secrecy of the proceedings. Yet it was virtually impossible for an aircraft
of such dimensions and capabilities to remain inconspicuous. At its full speed
OXCART had a turning radius of no less than 86 miles. There was no question
of staying close to the airfield; its shortest possible flights took it over a
very large expanse of territory.

(S) The first long-range, high-speed flight occurred on 27 January 1965, when
one of the test aircraft flew for an hour and forty minutes, with an hour and
fifteen minutes above Mach 3.1. Its total range was 2,580 nautical miles, with
altitudes between 75,600 and 80,000 feet.

(U) Two more aircraft were lost during this phase of the program. On 9 July
1964 Aircraft No. 133 was making its final approach to the runway when at
altitude of 500 feet and airspeed of 200 knots it began a smooth steady roll to
the left. Lockheed test pilot Bill Parks could not overcome the roll. At about
a 45 degree bank angle and 200 foot altitude he ejected. As he swung down to
the vertical in the parachute his feet touched the ground, for what must have
been one of the narrower escapes in the perilous history of test piloting. The
primary cause of the accident was that the servo for the right ourboard roll
and pitch control froze. No news of the accident filtered out.

(S) On 28 December 1965 Aircraft No. 126 crashed immediately after take-
off and was totally destroyed. Detachment pilot Mele Vojvodich ejected safely
at an altitude of 150 feet. The accident investigation board determined that a
flight line electrician had improperly connected the yaw and pitch gyros-had
in effect reversed the controls. This time Mr. McCone directed the Office of
Security to conduct an investigation into the possibility of sabotage. While
nothing of the sort was discovered, there were indications of negligence, as
the manufacturer of the gyro had earlier warned of the possibility that the
mechanism could be connected in reverse. No action had been taken,
however, even by such an elementary precaution as painting the contacts
different colors. Again there was no publicity connected with the accident.

(S) The year 1965 saw the test site reach the high point of activity.
Completion of construction brought it to full physical size. All detachment
pilots were Mach 3.0 qualified. Site population reached 1,835. Contractors
were working three shifts a day. Lockheed Constellations made daily flights
between the factory at Burbank and the site. Two C-47 flights a day were
made between the site and Las Vegas. And officials were considering how and
when and where to use OXCART in its appointed role.

(S) Targeting the OX

(S) After the unhappy end of U-2 flights over the Soviet Union, US political
authorities were understandably cautious about committing themselves to
further manned reconnaissance over unfriendly territory. There was no serious
intention to use the OXCART over Russia; save in some unforseeable
emergency it was indeed no longer necessary to do so. What then, should be
done with this vehicle?

(S) The first interest was in Cuba. By early 1964 Project Headquarters began
planning for the contingency of flights over that island under a program
designated SKYLARK. Bill Parks' accident in early July held this program up
for a time, but on 5 August Acting DCI Marshall S. Carter directed that
SKYLARK achieve emergency operational readiness by 5 November. This
involved preparing a small detachment which should be able to do the job over
Cuba, though at something less than the full design capability of the
OXCART. The goal was to operate at Mach 2.8 and 80,000 feet altitude.

(C) In order to meet the deadline set by General Carter, camera performance
would have to be validated, pilots qualified for Mach 2.8 flight, and
coordination with supporting elements arranged. Only one of several equip-
ments for electronic countermeasures (ECM) would be ready by November,
and a senior intra-governmental group, including representation from the
President's Scientific Advisory Committee, examined the problem of operat-
ing over Cuba without the full complement of defensive systems. This panel
decided that the first few overflights could safely be conducted without them,
but the ECM would be necessary thereafter. The delivery schedule of ECM
equipment was compatible with this course of action.

(S) After considerable modifications to aircraft, the detachment simulated
Cuban missions on training flights, and a limited emergency SKYLARK
capability was announced on the date General Carter had set. With two weeks
notice the OXCART detachment could accomplish a Cuban overflight, though
with fewer ready aircraft and pilots than had been planned.

(S) During the following weeks the detachment concentrated on developing
SKYLARK into a sustained capability, with five ready pilots and five
operational aircraft. The main tasks were to determine aircraft range and fuel
consumption, attain repeatable reliable operation, finish pilot training,
prepare a family of SKYLARK missions, and coordinate routes with North American
Air Defense, Continental Air Defense, and the Federal Aviation Authority. All
this was accomplished without substantially hindering the main task of
working up OXCART to full design capability. We may anticipate the story,
however, by remarking that despite all this preparation the OXCART was
never used over Cuba. U-2's proved adequate, and the A-12 was reserved for
more critical situations.

(S) In 1965 a more critical situation did indeed emerge in Asia, and interest
in using the aircraft there began to be manifest. On 18 March 1965 Mr. McCone
discussed with Secretaries McNamara and Vance the increasing hazards to U-2
and drone reconnaissance of Communist China. A memorandum of this
conversation stated:

(S) "It was further agreed that we should proceed immediately with all
preparatory steps necessary to operate the OXCART over Commu-
nist China, flying out of Okinawa. It was agreed that we should
proceed with all construction and related arrangements. However,
this decision did not authorize the deployment of the OXCART to
Okinawa nor the decision to fly the OXCART over Communist
China. The decision would authorize all preparatory steps and the
expenditure of such funds as might be involved. No decision has
been taken to fly the OXCART operationally over Communist
China. This decision can only be made by the President."

(S) Four days later Brigadier General Jack C. Ledford, Director of the Office
of Special Activities, DD/S&T, briefed Mr. Vance on the scheme which had
been drawn up for operations in the Far East. The project was called BLACK
SHIELD, and it called for the OXCART to operate out of the Kadena Air
Force Base in Okinawa. In the first phase, three aircraft would stage to
Okinawa for 60-day periods, twice a year, with about 225 personnel involved.

(S)After this was in good order, BLACK SHIELD would advance to the point of
maintaining a permanent detachment at Kadena. Secretary Vance made $3.7
million available to be spent in providing support facilities on the island,
which were to be available by early fall of 1965.

(S) Meanwhile the Communists began to deploy surface-to-air missiles
around Hanoi, thereby threatening our current military reconnaissance capa-
bilities. Secretary McNamara called this to the attention of the Under
Secretary of the Air Force on 3 June 1965, and inquired about the practicabil-
ity of substituting OXCART aircraft for U-2's. He was told that BLACK
SHIELD could operate over Vietnam as soon as adequate aircraft perform-
ance was achieved.

(S) With deployment overseas thus apparently impending in the fall, the
detachment went into the final stages of its program for validating the
reliability of aircraft and aircraft systems. It set out to demonstrate
complete systems reliability at Mach 3.05 and at 2,300 nautical miles range,
with penetration altitude of 76,000 feet. A demonstrated capability for three
aerial refuelings was also part of the validation process.

(S) By this time the OXCART was well along in performance. The inlet,
camera, hydraulic, navigation, and flight control systems all demonstrated
acceptable reliability. Nevertheless, as longer flights were conducted at high
speeds and high temperatures, new problems came to the surface, the most
serious being with the electrical wiring system. Wiring connectors and
components had to withstand temperatures of more than 800 degrees
Fahrenheit, together with structural flexing, vibration, and shock. Continuing
malfunctions in the inlet controls, communications equipment, ECM systems,
and cockpit instruments were in many cases attributable to wiring failures.
There was also disturbing evidence that careless handling was contributing to
electrical connector failures. Difficulties persisted in the sealing of fuel
tanks. What with one thing and another, officials soon began to fear that the
scheduled date for BLACK SHIELD readiness would not be met. Prompt
corrective action on the part of Lockheed was in order. The quality of
maintenance needed drastic improvement. The responsibility for delivering an
aircraft system with acceptable reliability to meet an operational commitment
lay in Lockheed's hands.

(S) In this uncomfortable situation, John Paragosky, Deputy for Technology,
OSA, went to the Lockheed plant to see Kelly Johnson on 3 August 1965. A
frank discussion ensued on the measures necessary to insure that BLACK
SHIELD commitments would be met, and Johnson concluded that he should
himself spend full time at the site in order to get the job done expeditiously.
Lockheed President Daniel Haughton offered the full support of the corpora-
tion, and Johnson began duty at the site next day. His firm and effective man-
agement got Project BLACK SHIELD back on schedule.

(S) Four primary BLACK SHIELD aircraft were selected and final validation
flights conducted. During these tests the OXCART achieved a maximum
speed of Mach 3.29, altitude of 90,000 feet, and sustained flight time
above Mach 3.2 of one hour and fourteen minutes. The maximum endurance
flight lasted six hours and twenty minutes. The last stage was reached on
20 November 1965, and two days later Kelly Johnson wrote General Ledford:

(S) " ... Over-all, my considered opinion is that the aircraft can be suc-
cessfully deployed for the BLACK SHIELD mission with what I
would consider to be at least as low a degree of risk as in the early
U-2 deployment days. Actually, considering our performance level
of more than four times the U-2 speed and three miles more
operating altitude, it is probably much less risky than our first U-2
deployment. I think the time has come when the bird should leave
its nest."

(S) Ten days later the 303 Committee received a formal proposal that
OXCART be deployed to the Far East. The Committee, after examining the
matter, did not approve. It did agree, however, that short of actually moving
aircraft to Kadena all steps should be taken to develop and maintain a quick
reaction capability, ready to deploy within a 21-day period at any time after
1 January 1966.

(S) There the matter remained, for more than a year. During 1966 there were
frequent renewals of the request to the 303 Committee for authorization to
deploy OXCART to Okinawa and conduct reconnaissance missions over North
Vietnam, Communist China, or both. All were turned down. Among high
officials there was difference of opinion; CIA, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and
the Presidents Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board favored the move, while
Alexis Johnson representing State, and Defense in the persons of Messrs.
McNamara and Vance, opposed it. The proponents urged the necessity of
better intelligence, especially on a possible Chinese Communist build-up
preparatory to intervention in Vietnam. The opponents felt that better
intelligence was not so urgently needed as to justify the political risks of
basing the aircraft in Okinawa and thus almost certainly disclosing to Japanese
and other propagandists. They also believed it undesirable to use OXCART and
reveal something of its capability until a more pressing requirement appeared.
At least once, on 12 August 1966, the divergent views were brought up to the
President, who confirmed the 303 Committee's majority opinion against

(S) Meanwhile, of course, flight testing and crew proficiency training contin-
ued. There was plenty of time to improve mission plans and flight tactics, as
well as to prepare the forward area at Kadena. New plans shortened
deployment time from the 21 days first specified. Personnel and cargo were to
be airlifted to Kadena the day deployment was approved. On the fifth day the
first OXCART would depart and travel the 6,673 miles in five hours and 34
minutes. The second would go on the seventh and the third on the ninth day.
The first two would be ready for an emergency mission on the eleventh day,
and for a normal mission on the fifteenth day.

(S) An impressive demonstration of the OXCART's capability occurred on 21
December 1966 when Lockheed test pilot Bill Parks flew 10,198 statute miles
in six hours. The aircraft left the test area in Nevada and flew northward over
Yellowstone National Park, thence eastward to Bismark, North Dakota, and on
to Duluth, Minnesota. It then turned south and passed Atlanta en route to
Tampa, Florida, then northwest to Portland, Oregon, then southwest to
Nevada. Again the flight turned eastward, passing Denver and St. Louis.
Turning around at Knoxville, Tennessee, it passed Memphis in the home
stretch back to Nevada. This flight established a record unapproachable by
any other aircraft; it began at about the same time a typical government
employee starts his work day and ended two hours before his quitting time. *

(S) * Neither on this nor on other flights was there much trouble from sonic
boom. To be sure, the inhabitants of a small village some 30 miles from the
site were troubled as the aircraft broke through the sound barrier while
gaining altitude. A change of course remedied this. At altitude OXCART produced
no more than an ominous rumble on the ground and since the plane was in-
visible to the naked eye no one associated this sound with its actual source.

(S) Shortly after this exploit, tragedy befell the program. During a routine
training flight on 5 January 1967, the fourth aircraft was lost, together with
its pilot. The accident occurred during descent about 70 miles from the base. A
fuel guage failed to function properly, and the aircraft ran out of fuel only
minutes before landing. The pilot, Walter Ray, ejected but was killed when he
failed to separate from the ejection seat before impact. The aircraft was
totally destroyed. Its wreckage was found on 6 January and Ray's body recovered
a day later. Through Air Force channels a story was released to the effect that
an Air Force SR-71, on a routine test flight out of Edwards Air Force Base, was
missing and presumed down in Nevada. The pilot was identified as a civilian
test pilot, and the newspapers connected him with Lockheed. Flight activity at
the base was again suspended during investigation of the causes both for the
crash and for the failure of the seat separation device.

(S) It is worth observing that none of the four accidents occurred in the high-
Mach-number, high-temperature regime of flight. All involved traditional
problems inherent in any aircraft. In fact, the OXCART was by this time
performing at high speeds, with excellent reliability.


(S) About May of 1967 prospects for deployment took a new turn. A good
deal of apprehension was evident in Washington about the possibility that the
Communists might introduce surface-to-surface missiles into North Vietnam,
and concern was aggravated by doubts as to whether we could detect such a
development if it occurred. The President asked for a proposal on the matter;
CIA briefed the 303 Committee and once again suggested that the OXCART
be used. Its camera was far superior to those on drones or on the U-2, its vul-
nerability was far less. The State and Defense members of the Committee
decided to re-examine the requirements and the political risks involved. While
they were engaged in their deliberations, Director of Central Intelligence,
Richard Helms, submitted to the 303 Committee another formal proposal to
deploy the OXCART. In addition, he raised the matter at President Johnson's
"Tuesday lunch" on 16 May, and received the Presidents approval to "go."
Walt Rostow later in the day formally conveyed the President's decision, and
the BLACK SHIELD deployment plan was forthwith put into effect.

(S) On 17 May airlift to Kadena began. On 22 May the first A-12 (Serial No.
131) flew nonstop to Kadena in six hours and six minutes. Aircraft No. 127
departed on 24 May and arrived at Kadena five hours and 55 minutes later.
The third, No. 129, left according to plan on 26 May 1967 and proceeded nor-
mally until in the vicinity of Wake Island where the pilot experienced
difficulties with the inertial navigation and communications systems. In the
circumstances, he decided to make a precautionary landing at Wake Island.
The prepositioned emergency recovery team secured the aircraft without
incident and the flight to Kadena resumed next day.

(C) Arrangements were made to brief the Ambassadors and Chiefs of Station
in the Philippines, Formosa, Thailand, South Vietnam, and Japan, and the
High Commissioner and Chief of Station, Okinawa. The Prime Ministers of
Japan and Thailand were advised, as were the President and Defense Minister
of the Republic of China. The Chiefs of the Air Force of Thailand and the
Republic of China were also briefed. Reactions were favorable.

(S) On 29 May 1967, the unit at Kadena was ready to fly an operational mis-
sion. Under the command of Colonel Hugh C. Slater two hundred and sixty
personnel had deployed to the BLACK SHIELD facility. Except for hangars,
which were a month short of completion, everything was in shape for
sustained operations. Next day the detachment was alerted for a mission on 31
May, and the moment arrived which would see the culmination of ten years of
effort, worry, and cost. As fate would have it, on the morning of the 31st
heavy rain fell at Kadena. Since weather over the target area was clear,
preparations continued in hopes that the local weather would clear. When the
time for take-off approached, the OXCART, which had never operated in heavy
rain, taxied to the runway, and took off while the rain continued.

(S) The first BLACK SHIELD mission followed one flight line over North
Vietnam and one over the Demilitarized Zone. It lasted three hours and 39
minutes, and the cruise legs were flown at Mach 3.1 and 80,000 feet. Results
were satisfactory. Seventy of the 190 known SAM sites in North Vietnam were
photographed, as were nine other priority targets. There were no radar signals
detected, indicating that the first mission had gone completely unnoticed by
both Chinese and North Vietnamese.

(S) Fifteen BLACK SHIELD missions were alerted during the period from 31
May to 15 August 1967. Seven of the fifteen were flown and of these four
detected radar tracking signals, but no hostile action was taken against any of
them. By mid-July they had determined with a high degree of confidence that
there were no surface-to-surface missiles in North Vietnam.

(C) All operational missions were planned, directed, and controlled by Project
Headquarters in Washington. A constant watch was maintained on the
weather in the target areas. Each day at a specified hour (1600 hours local) a
mission alert briefing occurred. If the forecast weather appeared favorable,
the Kadena base was alerted and provided a route to be flown. The alert pre-
ceded actual take-off by 28 to 30 hours. Twelve hours prior to take-off (H
minus 12) a second review of target weather was made. If it continued
favorable, the mission generation sequence continued. At H minus 2 hours, a
"go-no-go" decision was made and communicated to the field. The final
decision, it should be noted, depended not solely on weather in the target
area; conditions had to be propitious also in the refueling areas and at the
launch and recovery base.

(C) Operations and maintenance at Kadena began with the receipt of alert
notification. Both a primary aircraft and pilot and a back-up aircraft and
pilot were selected. The aircraft were given thorough inspection and servicing,
all systems were checked, and the cameras loaded into the aircraft. Pilots
received a detailed route briefing in the early evening prior to the day of
flight. On the morning of the flight a final briefing occurred, at which time
the condition of the aircraft and its systems was reported, last-minute weather
forecasts reviewed, and other relevant intelligence communicated together
with any amendments or changes in the flight plan. Two hours prior to take-
off the primary pilot had a medical examination, got into his suit, and was
taken to the aircraft. If any malfunctions developed on the primary aircraft,
the back-up could execute the mission one hour later.

(S) A typical route profile for a BLACK SHIELD mission over North
Vietnam included a refueling shortly after take-off, south of Okinawa, the
planned photographic pass or passes, withdrawl to a second aerial refueling in
the Thailand area, and return to Kadena. So great was the OXCART's speed
that it spent only 12 1/2 minutes over North Vietnam in a typical "single pass"
mission, or a total of 21 1/2 minutes on two passes. Its turning radius of 86
miles was such, however, that on some mission profiles it might be forced
during its turn to intrude into Chinese airspace.

(S) Once landed back at Kadena, the camera film was removed from the
aircraft, boxed, and sent by special plane to the processing facilities. Film
from earlier missions was developed at the Eastman Kodak plant in Rochester,
New York. By late summer an Air Force Center in Japan carried out the
processing in order to place the photointelligence in the hands of American
commanders in Vietnam within 24 hours of completion of a BLACK SHIELD mission.

(S) Between 16 August and 31 December 1967, twenty-six missions were
alerted. Fifteen were flown. On 17 December one SAM site tracked the
vehicle with its acquisition radar but was unsuccessful with its Fan Song
guidance radar. On 28 October a North Vietnamese SAM site for the first time
launched a single, albiet unsuccessful, missile at the OXCART. Photography
from this mission documented the event with photographs of missile smoke
above the SAM firing site, and with pictures of the missile and of its
contrail. Electronic countermeasures equipment appeared to perform well
against the missile firing.

(S) During the flight of 30 October 1967, pilot Dennis Sullivan detected radar
tracking on his first pass over North Vietnam. Two sites prepared to launch
missiles but neither did. During the second pass at least six missiles were
fired at the OXCART, each confirmed by missile vapor trails on mission photog-
raphy. Sullivan saw these vapor trails and witnessed three missile detonations.
Post-flight inspection of the aircraft revealed that a piece of metal had
penetrated the lower right wing fillet area and lodged against the support
structure of the wing tank. The fragment was not a warhead pellet but may
have been a part of the debris from one of the missile detonations observed by
the pilot.

(C) Between 1 January and 31 March 1968 six missions were flown out of
fifteen alerted. Four of these were over North Vietnam and two over North
Korea. The first mission over North Korea on 26 January occurred during a
very tense period following seizure of the Pueblo on the 23rd. The aim was to
discover whether the North Koreans were preparing any large scale hostile
move on the heels of this incident. Chinese tracking of the flight was
apparent, but no missiles were fired at the plane.

(C) The Department of State was reluctant to endorse a second mission over
North Korea for fear of the diplomatic repercussions which could be expected
if the aircraft came down in hostile territory. Brigadier General Paul Bacalis
then briefed Secretary Rusk on the details and objectives of the mission, and
assured him that the aircraft would transit North Korea in no more than seven
minutes. He explained that even if some failure occurred during flight the
aircraft would be highly unlikely to land either in North Korea or in China.
Secretary Rusk made suggestions to alter the flight plan, thus becoming the
projects highest ranking flight planner.

(C) Between 1 April and 9 June 1968 two missions were alerted for North
Korea. Only the mission which flew on 8 May was granted approval.

(S) The SR-71

(S) All through the OXCART program the Air Force had been exceedingly
helpful. it gave financial support, conducted the refueling program, provided
operational facilities at Kadena, and air-lifted OXCART personnel and
supplies to Okinawa for the operations over Vietnam and North Korea. It also
ordered from Lockheed a small fleet of A-11's, which upon being finished as
two seated reconnaissance aircraft would be named SR-71. These would
become operational about 1967.

(S) The stated mission of the SR-71 was to conduct "post-strike reconnais-
sance," that is, to look the enemy situation over after a nuclear exchange. The
likelihood of using the aircraft in the capacity hardly appeared great, but
SR-71 was of course also capable of ordinary intelligence missions. For these
purposes, however, the OXCART possessed certain clear advantages. It carried
only one man, and largely for this reason it had room for a much bigger and
better camera, as well as for various other collection devices which at the
time could not be carried by the SR-71. It was certainly the most effective
reconnaissance aircraft in existence, or likely to be in existence for years
to come. Also it was operated by civilians, and could be employed covertly, or
at least without the number of personnel and amount of fanfare normally
attending an Air Force operation.

(S) The fact the SR-71's were ordered eased the path of OXCART develop-
ment, since it meant that the financial burden was shared with the Air Force,
and the cost per aircraft was somewhat reduced by producing greater
numbers. In the longer run, however, the existence of SR-71 spelled the doom
of OXCART, for reasons which appear to have been chiefly financial and in a
manner now to be related

(S) Ending

(S) During November 1965, the very month when OXCART was finally
declared operational, the moves toward its demise commenced. Within the
Bureau of the Budget a memorandum was circulated expressing concern at the
costs of the A-12 and SR-71 programs, both past and projected. It questioned
the requirement for the total number of aircraft represented in the combined
fleets, and doubted the necessity for a separate CIA (OXCART) fleet. Several
alternatives were proposed to achieve a substantial reduction in the forecasted
spending, but the recommended course was to phase out the A-12 program by
September 1966 and stop any further procurement of SR-71 aircraft. Copies of
this memorandum were sent to the Department of Defense and the CIA with
the suggestion that those agencies explore the alternatives set out in the
paper. But the Secretary of Defense declined to consider the proposal,
presumably because the SR-71 would not be operational by September 1966.

(S) Things remained in this state until in July 1966 the Bureau of the Budget
proposed that a study group be established to look into the possibility of
reducing expenses on the OXCART and SR-71 programs. The group was
requested to consider the following alternatives:

1. Retention of separate A-12 and SR-71 fleets, i.e., status quo.

2. Collocation of the two fleets.

3. Transfer of the OXCART mission and aircraft to SAC.

4. Transfer of the OXCART mission to SAC and storage of A-12 aircraft.

5. Transfer of the OXCART mission to SAC and disposal of A-12 aircraft.

(S)The study group included C. W. Fischer, Bureau of the Budget; Herbert
Bennington, Department of Defense; and John Paragosky, Central Intelligence

(S) This group conducted its study through the fall of 1966, and identified
three principal alternatives of its own. They were:

1. To maintain the status quo and continue both fleets at current
approval levels.

2. To mothball all A-12 aircraft, but maintain the OXCART capability by
sharing SR-71 aircraft between SAC and CIA.

3. To terminate the OXCART fleet in January 1968 (assuming an
operational readiness date of September 1967 for the SR-71) and assign
all missions to the SR-71 fleet.

(S) On 12 December 1966 there was a meeting at the Bureau of the Budget
attended by Mr. Helms, Mr. Shultze, Mr. Vance, and Dr. Hornig, Scientific
Advisor to the President. Those present voted on the alternatives proposed in
the Fischer-Bennington-Paragosky report. Messrs. Vance, Schultze, and
Hornig chose to terminate the OXCART fleet, and Mr. Helms stood out for
eventual sharing of the SR-71 fleet between CIA and SAC. The Bureau of the
Budget immediately prepared a letter to the President setting forth the course
of action recommended by the majority. Mr. Helms, having dissented from
the majority, requested his Deputy Director for Science and Technology to
prepare a letter to the President stating CIA's reasons for remaining in the
reconnaissance business.

(S) On 16 December Mr. Schultze handed Mr. Helms a draft memorandum
to the President which requested a decision either to share the SR-71 fleet
between CIA and SAC, or to terminate the CIA capability entirely. This time
Mr. Helms replied that new information of considerable significance had been
brought to his attention concerning SR-71 performance. He requested another
meeting after 1 January to review pertinent facts, and also asked that the
memorandum to the President be withheld pending that meeting's outcome.
Specifically, he cited indications that the SR-71 program was having serious
technical problems and that there was real doubt that it would achieve an
operational capability by the time suggested for termination of the A-12
program. Mr. Helms therefore changed his position from sharing the SR-71
aircraft with SAC to a firm recommendation to retain the OXCART A-12 fleet
under civilian sponsorship. The Budget Bureau's memorandum was neverthe-
less transmitted to the President, who on 28 December 1966 accepted the
recommendations of Messrs. Vance, Hornig, and Schultze, and directed the
termination of the OXCART Program by 1 January 1968.

(S) This decision meant that a schedule had to be developed for orderly
phase-out. After consultation with project Headquarters, the Deputy Secretary
of Defense was advised on 10 January 1967 that four A-12's would be placed
in storage in July 1967, two more by December, and the last four by the end of
January 1968. In May Mr. Vance directed that the SR-71 assume contingency
responsibility to conduct Cuban overflights as of 1 July 1967 and take over the
dual capability over Southeast Asia and Cuba by 1 December 1967. This
provided for some overlap between OXCART withdrawal and SR-71 assump-
tion of responsibility.

(S) Meanwhile until 1 July 1967 the OXCART Detachment was to maintain
its capability to conduct operational missions both from a prepared location
overseas and from the US. This included a 15 day quick reaction capability for
deployment to the Far East and a seven-day quick reaction for deployment
over Cuba. Between 1 July and 31 December 1967 the fleet would remain
able to conduct operational missions either from a prepared overseas base or
from home base, but not from both simultaneously. A quick reaction
capability for either Cuban overflights or deployment to the Far East would
also be maintained.

(S) All these transactions and arrangements occurred before the OXCART
had conducted a single operational mission or even deployed to Kadena for
such a mission. As recounted above, the aircraft first performed its appointed
role over North Vietnam on the last day of May 1967. In succeeding months it
demonstrated both its exceptional technical capabilities and the competence
with which its operations were managed. As word began to get around that
OXCART was to be phased out, high officials commenced to feel some
disquiet. Concern was shown by Walt Rostow, the President's Special
Assistant; by key Congressional figures, members of the President's Foreign
Intelligence Advisory Board, and the President's Scientific Advisory Commit-
tee. The phase-out lagged, and the question was reopened.

(S) A few days afterwards the two remaining planes on Okinawa flew to the
US and were stored with the remainder of the OXCART family.

(S) Postscript

(S) In summary; the OXCART Program lasted just over ten years, from its in-
ception in 1957 through first flights in 1962 to termination in 1968. Lockheed
produced 15 OXCARTS, three YF-12A's and 31 SR-71's. The 49 supersonic
aircraft had completed more than 7,300 flights, with 17,000 hours in the air.
Over 2,400 hours had been above Mach 3. Five OXCART's were lost in
accidents; two pilots were killed, and two had narrow escapes. In addition, two
F-101 chase planes were lost with their Air Force pilots during OXCART's
testing phase.

(U) The main objective of the program-to create a reconnaissance aircraft of
unprecedented speed, range, and altitude capability-was triumphantly
achieved. It may well be, however, that the most important aspects of the
effort lay in its by-products--the notable advances in aerodynamic design,
engine performance, cameras, electronic countermeasures, pilot life support
systems, antiair devices, and above all in milling, machining, and shaping
titanium. Altogether it was a pioneering accomplishment.

(S) In a ceremony at the Nevada base on 26 June 1968, Vice Admiral Rufus
L. Taylor, Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, presented the CIA
Intelligence Star for valor to pilots Kenneth S. Collins, Ronald L. Layton,
Francis J. Murray, Dennis B. Sullivan, and Mele Vojvodich for participation in
the BLACK SHIELD operation. The posthumous award to pilot Jack W.
Weeks was accepted by his widow. The United States Air Force Legion of
Merit was presented to Colonel Slater and his Deputy, Colonel Maynard N.
Amundson. The Air Force Outstanding Unit Award was presented to the
members of the OXCART Detachment (1129th Special Activities Squadron,
Detachment 1) and the USAF supporting units.

(U) Wives of the pilots were present and learned for the first time of the
activities in which their husbands had been involved. Kelly Johnson was a guest
speaker at the ceremony, and lamented in moving words the end of an
enterprise which had marked his most outstanding achievement in aircraft
design. His own awards had already been received: The Presidents Medal of
Freedom in 1964, and on 10 February 1966, the National Medal of Science,
from President Johnson, for his contributions to aerospace science and to the
national security.

(S) A new study of the feasibility and cost of continuing the OXCART
program was completed in the spring of 1968 and four new alternatives were

1. Transfer all OXCART aircraft to SAC by 31 October 1968; substitute
Air Force for contractor support where possible; turn the test A-12
aircraft over to the SR-71 test facility.

2. Transfer OXCART as in alternative 1, above, and store eight SR-71's.

3. Close the OXCART home base and collocate the fleet with SR-71's at
Beale Air Force Base in California, but with CIA retaining control and

4. Continue OXCART operations at its own base under CIA control and

(S) Mr. Helms expressed his reactions to these alternatives in a memorandum
to Messrs. Nitze, Hornig, and Flax, dated 18 April 1968. In it he questioned
why, if eight SR-71's could be stored in one option, they could not be stored
in all the options, with the resultant savings applied in each case. He
questioned the lower cost figures of combining the OXCART with the SR-71's and
disagreed, for security reasons, with collocating the two fleets. Above all,
however, he felt that the key point was the desirability of retaining a covert
re-connaissance capability under civilian management. It was his judgement that
such a requirement existed, and he recommended that OXCART continue at
its own base under CIA management.

(S) In spite of all these belated efforts, the Secretary of Defense on 16 May
1968 reaffirmed the original decision to terminate the OXCART Program and
store the aircraft. At his weekly luncheon with his principal advisors on 21
May 1968, the President confirmed Secretary Clifford's decision.

(S) Early in March 1968, USAF SR-71 aircraft began to arrive at Kadena to
take over the BLACK SHIELD commitment, and by gradual stages the A-12
was placed on standby to back up the SR-71. The last operational mission
flown by OXCART was on 8 May 1968 over North Korea, following which the
Kadena Detachment was advised to prepare to go home. Project Headquarters
selected 8 June 1968 as the earliest possible date to begin redeployment, and
in the meantime flights of A-12 aircraft were to be limited to those essential
for maintaining flying safety and pilot proficiency. After BLACK SHIELD
aircraft arrived in the US they would proceed to storage. Those already at base
were placed in storage by 7 June.

(S) During its final days overseas the OXCART enterprise suffered yet
another blow, as inexplicable as it was tragic. On 4 June Aircraft No. 129,
piloted by Jack Weeks, set out from Kadena on a check flight necessitated by a
change of engine. Weeks was heard from when 520 miles east of Manila. Then
he disappeared. Search and rescue operations found nothing. No cause for the
accident was ever ascertained, and it remains a mystery to this day. Once
again the official news release identified the lost aircraft as an SR-71 and
security was maintained.


  3 Responses to “Category : Various Text files
Archive   : OXCART.ZIP
Filename : OXCART

  1. Very nice! Thank you for this wonderful archive. I wonder why I found it only now. Long live the BBS file archives!

  2. This is so awesome! 😀 I’d be cool if you could download an entire archive of this at once, though.

  3. But one thing that puzzles me is the “mtswslnkmcjklsdlsbdmMICROSOFT” string. There is an article about it here. It is definitely worth a read: