Article 121

The Lockheed A-12 was a top-secret reconnaissance aircraft built for the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) by Lockheed's Skunk Works, based on the designs of Clarence "Kelly" Johnson. The aircraft was designated A-12, the 12th in a series of internal design efforts for "Archangel", the aircraft's internal code name.

The aircraft that became known simply as the "Article" was so advanced that it necessitated the development of a multitude of new breakthrough technologies that had to be developed specifically for the Oxcart project.  Perhaps one of the biggest problems that Skunk Works engineers faced at that time was working with the hypersonic speed abilities that required a special skin to resist the insanely high atmospheric friction.  The only metal that could provide such protection was the rare metal called Titanium.  

Pictured here:  An inverted A-12 mounted on a pole at Area 51 for radar testing.

Unfortunately, the only people with enough Titanium to build the A-12 were also the least likely to offer any help.  The Russians...

The CIA cleverly used a complicated network of third parties and dummy companies and managed to unobtrusively purchase the base metal from their Russian suppliers.  The Russians never had a clue that the ultra-top-secret spy plane they helped to make possible, was also the first in a series of aircraft that they would spend the next few decades trying to shoot down. 

On the 26th of April 1962, nothing happened. Significantly not a Lockheed A-12, serial number 60-6924's first, unsubstantiated, alleged flight from the super secret and equally non-existent facility at Groom Lake, Nevada, on its first “unofficial - official” flight. Lockheed test pilot Louis Schalk flew the 72,000-pound "Article" less than 2 miles, at an altitude of about 20 feet over Area 51, but because of serious wobbling caused by improper hookup of some navigational controls. Instead of circling around and landing, Schalk elected to land in the Groom lake bed beyond the end of the runway.

The video below is incredibly rare is it was filmed at Area-51, a top-secret base that until recently did not appear on any maps, and was never acknowledged by the US government to exist until recently. Area 51, also known as Groom Lake, Dreamland, The Ranch, and Neverland is located next to the nuclear weapons testing grounds remains in full operation and is expanding to this day.  What is currently being tested there is unknown.   

"The Article" AKA "Article 121" returned to the unsubstantiated Groom Lake facility where the CIA declared the supposed first unofficial - official flight a non-event with no comment. 

The first official flight took place the next day with the landing gear down, as a precaution. Shortly after take off from Area-51, the A-12 started shedding leading edge "pie slice" fillets of titanium on the left and the right. Skunk Works Technicians had to spend days combing the dry lake bed to find them and then reattaching the pieces to the A-12 wings.

The Oxcart Project was a complete success. The A-12 was produced from 1962 to 1964 and was the precursor to the twin-seat YF-12 prototype interceptor, the M-21 launcher for the D-21 Drone, and the now world-famous SR-71 Blackbird, the world's fastest air-breathing aircraft. The A-12 was an impressive platform created by the genius of "Kelly" Johnson and the Skunk Works, and during operations had reached speeds over Mach 3.35 and a service Ceiling of over 85,000 feet. We will never know the true performance of this aircraft as it remains top secret, but considering this aircraft was designed by slide rulers and without the aid of modern computers, she was a truly remarkable engineering feat! The A-12 began flying missions in 1967 and its final mission was in May 1968; the program and aircraft were retired in June. The ultra-secret project was officially revealed to the public in the mid-1990s. Thirty years after operations commenced.

Please move along now...there is nothing further to discuss here.







  • Sherri Fultz

    To the webmaster, Your posts are always well written and informative.

  • Walt Wick, LTC, USAF (ret)

    How do I find t he F104 TO and immediate landing video
    Thanks Walt

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