Further Developments

In 1988, Hughes was granted a development contract to add a Moving Target Indicator (MTI) capability to ASARS. However, the actions of Saddam Hussein inter­rupted operational tests of the system, by the 17 RW.

After the Gulf War, tests were successfully completed in October 1991 and the ASARS MTI became operational four years later. Now the system is capable of locating moving targets in search or spot modes.

After much Air Force deliberation, it was decided to upgrade the U-2 fleet with the General Electric F’101- GE-F29 turbofan engine. Of similar thrust to the J75, the newer engine promised to be much cheaper to maintain and was significantly lighter, with a much improved fuel consumption rate, thus restoring valuable performance lost through the expansion of the sensor package. It was first flown by Ken Weir in 80-1090 on 23 May 1989 and on 28 October 1994, a delivery ceremony w’as held at Palmdale, when the first three conversions were handed back to the Air Force, the engine having been redesignat­ed in the meantime the FI 18.

Despite President Bush’s optimistic remarks about the establishment of a new world order, following the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union, continued political instability in various parts of the world has ensured that the capabilities of the U-2 reconnaissance system are as much in demand today as they were back in 1956.

Подпись: THE U-

Further Developments

Below In all, 25 TR-1 As. two TR-1 Bs and two ER-2s were built using ‘White World’ money, at the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works plant at Palmdale – in addition, seven U-2Rs and a dual­control U-2R (T) were built ‘in the black’. (Lockheed Martin)


Подпись: The SR-71

Подпись:Further DevelopmentsFurther DevelopmentsFurther Developments

Подпись: Above A-12 933 is seen outside one of the specially constructed ‘barns'. (CIA)
Подпись: Right Seven single seat A-12s, one two-seat trainer and twoYF- l2As are seen lined up in their black and titanium paint scheme.The black paint hides wedges of radar absorbent mate-rial (RAM), that frame the aircraft's planform. (CIA)

Mindful of the subsonic vulnerability of the U-2 to developing Soviet SAM systems, the Agency’s Richard Bissell contacted Kelly Johnson in the Autumn of 1957, and asked if the Lockheed Skunk Works team would conduct an opera­tional analysis into the relationship of an aircraft’s interceplibility, as a function of its speed, altitude and radar cross section (RCS). As Kelly was already immersed in related studies, he agreed to accept the project; the results of w hich concluded that flight at supersonic speed and extreme altitude, coupled with the use of radar absorbent materials (RAM) and radar attenuating design, greatly reduced, but not negated, the chances of radar detection and a successful interception. Encouraged by these results, it was agreed that further exploratory work should be conducted. During the closing months of 1957, the Agency invited Lockheed Aircraft Corporation and

Above right With studies conducted by Pratt & Whitney and the Skunk Works at an advanced stage, Kelly Johnson proposed a liquid hydrogen propelled U-2 follow-on design to Lt Gen Donald Putt, during a Pentagon meeting in early January 1956. This Special Access Required programme, codenamed ‘Suntan’ developed the original CL-325 design into the CL-400. On paper, capable of Mach 2.5 at 100,000ft it was finally cancelled in February 1959, due primarily to lack of design stretch and logistical problems concerning the positioning of its highly volatile fuel. However the proposal led directly to a series of hydrocarbon designs that would take aerospace into a new era. (Lockheed Martin)

Opposite top A shot taken early in the A-12 test programme depicts a bare titanium aircraft landing at Area 51.

Further Developments

Further Developmentsthe Convair Division of General Dynamics to field to – t

them non-funded, non-contracted design submissions for m a reconnaissance gathering vehicle, which adhered to the SJ aforementioned performance criteria. Both companies accepted the challenge and were assured that funding would be forthcoming at the appropriate time. For the next twelve months, the Agency received designs that were both developed and refined, all at no expense!

Further DevelopmentsIt was however, readily apparent to Bissell that the cost of developing such an advanced aircraft would be both high-risk and extremely expensive; government funding would be a prerequisite and to obtain this, various high – ranking government officials would have to be cleared into the programme and given concis, authoritative presentations on advances as they occurred. He therefore assembled a highly talented panel of six specialists under the chair of Dr Edwin Land. Between 1957 and 1959 the panel met on some six occasions, usually in Land’s Cambridge, Massachusetts office. Kelly and General Dynamics’ Vincent Dolson were at times in attendance, as w’erc the Assistant Secretaries of the Air Force, Navy and


Further Developments

Above When deployed to Kadena under operation Blackshield, A-12s sported an overall black scheme, carrying no national insignia and bogus serials. (CIA)

Below Agency pilot Ken Collins ejected safely from ‘926 on 24 May 1963. He is seen here wearing a David Clark S-901 full pressure suit. (CIA)

Further Developments

other select technical advisors. Code-named project Gusto by the Agency, Lockheed’s first submission, Archangel, proposed a Mach 3 cruise aircraft with a range of 4,000 nautical miles at altitudes of between 90-95,000 ft. This, together with his Gusto Model G2A submission, was well received by the Programme Office, as Kelly noted later. Convair on the other hand prepared the Super Hustler; Mach-4 capable, ramjet-powered when launched from a B-58 and turbojet assisted for landing. As designs were refined and re-submitted, the Lockheed offerings became shortened to A, followed by an index number, these ran from A-З to A-12. The design and designations from Convair also evolved and on 20th August 1959, final submissions from both companies were made to a joint DoD/Air Force/CIA selection panel. Though strikingly

different, the proposed performance of each aircraft was on a par.

On 28 August 1959, Kelly was told by the director of the programme that Lockheed’s Skunk Works had w’on the competition to build the U-2 follow-on. The next day they were given the official go-ahead, with initial funding of S4.5 million approved to cover the period 1 September to 1 January 1960. Project Gusto was now at an end and a new code name. Oxcart, was assigned. On 3 September, the Agency authorised Lockheed to proceed with anti – radar studies, aerodynamic, structural tests and engineer­ing designs.

The small engineering team, under the supervision of Ed Martin, consisted of Dan Zuck in charge of cockpit design, Dave Robertson fuel system requirements, Henry Combs and Dick Bochme structures, Dick Fuller, Burt Mc. Master and Kelly’s protege Ben Rich.

The ambitious performance sought in the new aircraft can’t be overstated: the best front-line fighter aircraft of the day were the early century-series jets, like the F-100 Super Sabre and F-101 Voodoo. In a single bound, the A-12 would operate at sustained speeds and altitudes treble and double respectively, of such contemporary fighters’ limits. The technical challenge facing the Skunk Works team was vast and the contracted time scale in which to achieve it was incredibly tight. Kelly would later remark that virtually everything on the aircraft had to be invented from scratch. Operating above 80,000 feet the ambient air temperature was minus 56 degrees Centigrade and the atmospheric air pressure just 0.4 pounds per square inch. But cruising at a speed of a mile every two seconds, airframe temperatures would vary from 245 to 565 degrees Centigrade,

Sustained operation in such an extreme temperature environment, meant lavish use of advanced titanium alloys, which account for 85 per cent of the aircraft’s structural weight, the remaining 15 per cent was comprised of composite materials. The decision to use such materials was based upon titanium’s ability to with­stand high operating temperatures. It weighs half as much as stainless steel but has the same tensile strength; in addition, conventional construction was possible using fewer parts – high strength composites weren’t available in the early sixties. The particular titanium used w’as B – 120VCA, which can be hardened to strengths of up to 200 Ksi. Initially the ageing process required 70 hours to achieve maximum strength but, with careful processing techniques, this was reduced to 40 hours. A rigorous (and expensive) quality’ control programme was set up, wherein

Further Developments

Top left Aircraft ‘932 was lost during a functional check flight (FCF) just prior to being redeployed back to the United States on 5 June 1968; its pilot. Jack Weeks, was killed in the incident,


Top rightThe classified unit designation of the CIA. A-12 desert dwellers, was the I 129th Special Activities Squadron, The Road Runners’. (Paul Crickmore Collection)

Above When the A-12 programme was cancelled, the remaining aircraft were flown from Area 51 to Palmdale and placed in storage. (Lockheed Martin)

for every batch of ten or more parts processed, three samples were heat treated to the same level as those in the batch. One was then strength-tested to destruction, another tested for formabilitv and the third held in reserve should processing be required. With more than 13 million titanium parts manufactured, data is available on all but a few. Using this advanced material involved a steep learning curve and it wasn’t long before problems arose. Titanium is not compatible with chlorine, fluorine or cadmium. A line for example, drawn on sheet titanium with a Pentel pen, will eat a hole through it in about 12 hours – all Pentel pens were recalled from the shop floor. Early spot welded panels produced during the summer had a habit of failing, while those built in the winter last­ed indefinitely. Diligent detective work discovered that to


Further Developments

prevent the formation of algae in the summer, the Burbank water supply was heavily chlorinated. Subsequently, the Skunk Works washed all titanium parts in distilled water. As thermodynamic tests got underway bolt heads began dropping from installations; this, it was discovered, was caused by tiny cadmium deposits, left after cadium-plated spanners had been used to apply torque. As the bolts were heated in excess of 320 degrees Centigrade, their heads simply dropped off. Remedy: all cadium-plated tools were removed from tool boxes.

Another test undertaken studied thermal effects on large titanium wing panels. An element 4ft x 6ft (1.2 x 1.8m) was heated to the computed heat flux expected in flight and resulted in the sample warping into a totally unacceptable shape. This problem was resolved by manu­facturing chordwise corrugations into the outer skins. At the design heat rate, the corrugations merely deepened by a few thousandths of an inch and on cooling returned to the basic shape. Kelly recalled he was accused of “trying to make a 1932 Ford Trimotor go Mach 3”, but added that “the concept worked fine”. To prevent this titanium outer skin from tearing when secured to heavier sub­structures, the Skunk Works developed stand-off clips, this ensured structural continuity while creating a heat shield between adjacent components.

Chosen powerplant would be the Pratt & Whitney JT11D-20 engine (designated J58 by the US military). This high bypass ratio afterburning engine was the result of two earlier, ill-fated programmes: Project Suntan (see p34, caption) together with Pratt & Whitney’s JT9 single­spool high pressure ratio turbojet rated at 26,0001bs in afterburner and developed for a US Navy attack aircraft, which was also axed. Nevertheless, the engine had already completed 700 hours of full-scale engine testing and results were very encouraging. As testing continued however, it became apparent that due to the incredibly hostile thermal conditions of sustained Mach 3.2 flight, only the basic airflow size (400 lbs per second of airflow) and the compressor and turbine aerodynamics of the orig­inal Navy J58 P2 engine could be retained (even these were later modified). The stretched design criteria, associ­ated with high Mach number and its related large air-flow turn-down ratio, led to the development of a variable cycle, later known as a bleed-bypass engine; a

Above Pictured at Area 51 with another A-12 just visible behind the gantry. M-21 .Article 134, serial 60-6940, is seen with a D – 21 mounted on its dorsal pylon. (Lockheed Martin)

Above right To aid ‘Mother/Daughter’ separation, a cylinder of compressed air was carried in the pylon. (Lockheed Martin)

Be/owThis shot, believed to be that of the ill-fated М-21, serial 60-6941, shows the aircraft in a later overall black scheme.

(Lockheed Martin)

concept conceived by Pratt & Whitney’s Robert Abernathy. This eliminated many airflow problems through the engine, by bleeding air from the fourth stage of the nine-stage, single-spool axial-flow compres­sor. This excess air was passed through six low-compression-ratio bypass ducts and re-introduced into the turbine exhaust, near the front of the after­burner, at the same static pressure as the main flow.

This reduced exhaust gas temperature (EGT) and produced almost as much thrust per pound of air as the main flow, which had passed through the rear compressor, the burner section and the turbine.

Scheduling of the bypass bleed was achieved by the main fuel control as a function of compressor inlet temperature (CIT) and engine rpm. Bleed air injection occurred at a CIT of between 85 and 115 degrees Centigrade (approximately Mach 1.9). To further minimise stalling the front stages of the rotor blades at low engine speeds, moveable inlet guide vanes (IGVs) were incorporated to help guide airflow to the compressor. These changed from an axial, to a cambered position, in response to the main fuel control, which regulated most engine functions. In the ‘axial’ position, additional thrust was provided for take off and acceleration to intermediate supersonic speeds, the IGVs then moved to the ‘cambered’ position, when the CIT reached 85 to 115 degrees Centigrade. Should IGV ‘lock-in’ fail to occur upon reaching a CIT of 150 degrees Centigrade, the mission was aborted.

When operating at cruising speeds, the turbine inlet

Further Developments

temperature (TIT) reached over 1100 degrees Centigrade; this necessitated the development of a unique fuel, devel­oped jointly by Pratt & Whitney, Ashland Shell and Monsanto, known originally as PF-1 and latterly as JP-7. Having a much higher ignition temperature than JP-4, standard electrical ignition systems were useless. Instead a chemical ignition system (CIS), was developed, using a highly volatile pyrophoric fluid known as tri-ethyl borane (TEB). Extremely flash sensitive when oxidised, a small TEB tank was carried on the aircraft to allow engine afterburner start-up both on the ground and when aloft; the tank was pressurised using gaseous nitrogen, to ensure the system remained inert. Liquid nitrogen carried in
three Dewar flasks situated in the front nose gear well was also used to provide a positive ‘head’ of gaseous nitrogen in the fuel tanks. This prevented the depleted tanks from crushing as the aircraft descended into the denser atmosphere, to land or refuel. In addition, the inert gas reduced the risk of inadvertent vapour ignition.

Oxcart received a shot in the arm on 30 January 1960, when the Agency gave Lockheed ADP the go-ahead to manufacture and test a dozen A-12s, including one two – seat conversion trainer. With Lockheed’s’ chief test pilot, Louis W Schalk now on board, work on refining the aircraft’s design continued in parallel with additional construction work at Area 51. A new water well was drilled and new recreation facilities were provided for the construction workers, who were billeted in trailer houses. A new 8,500 ft runway was constructed and 18 miles of off-base highway were resurfaced to allow half a million gallons of PF-1 fuel to be trucked in every month. Three US Navy hangars together with Navy housing units were transported to the site in readiness for the arrival of the A-12 prototype, expected in May 1961. However, difficul­ties in procuring and working with titanium, together with problems experienced by Pratt & Whitney, soon began to compound and the anticipated first flight date slipped. Even when the completion date was put back to Christmas and the initial test flight postponed to late February 1962, the first J58s would still not be ready. Eventually Kelly decided that J75 engines would be used in the interim to propel the A-12 to a ‘half-way house’ of

50,0 ft and Mach 1.6, this action took at least some of the pressure off the test team.

Подпись: THE SR- 7 IFurther Developments
The flight crew selection process evolved by the

Подпись:Pentagon’s Special Activities Office representative (Col Houser Wilson) and the Agency’s USAF liaison officer (Brig Gen Jack Ledford, later succeeded by Brig Paul Bacalis), got under way in 1961. On completion of the final screening, the first pilots were William Skliar, Kenneth Collins, Walter Ray, Alonzo Walter, Mele Vojvodich, Jack Weeks, Jack Layton, Dennis Sullivan, David Young, Francis Murray and Russ Scott (only six of the above were destined to fiv operational missions).

These elite pilots then began taking trips to the David Clark Company in Worcester, Massachusetts, to be outfit­ted with their own personal S-901 full pressure suits –

Further Developments

Bbove WhenTagboard was cancelled, two B-52Hs of the 4200th Test Wing, at Beale AFB, continued working with the D-2ls, which required rocket boosters to propel them to their cruise speed and altitude. (Lockheed Martin)

Be/owThe North American F-108 Rapier was to have been an Improved Manned Interceptor (IMI) capable of Mach 3. It was cancelled due to escalating costs. (Rockwell International)

just like those worn by the Mercury and Gemini astro­nauts. In late 1961, Col Robert Holburv was appointed Base Commander of Area 51, his Director of Flight Operations would be Col Doug Nelson. In the spring of 1962 eight F-101 Voodoos, to be used as companion trainers and to pace-chase, two T-33s for pilot proficiency and a C-130, for cargo transportation, arrived at the remote base. A large ‘restricted airspace zone’ was enforced by the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA), to enhance security around ‘the Area’ and security notices were brought to the attention of North American Air Defence (NORAD) and FAA radar controllers, to ensure that fast-moving targets seen on their screens weren’t discussed. Planned air refuelling operations of Oxcart aircraft would be conducted bv the 903rd Air Refuelling Squadron, located at Beale AFB, and equipped with KC – 135Q_ tankers which possessed separate ‘clean’ tankage and plumbing to isolate the A-12s’ fuel from the tankers’ JP4, and special ARC-50 distance-ranging radios for use in precision, long distance, high-speed join ups.

Further Developments

With the first A-12 now at last ready for final assem­bly, the entire fuselage, minus wings, was created, covered with canvas and loaded on a special 8100,000 trailer. At 2.30am on 26 February 1962, the slow moving convoy left Burbank and arrived safely at Area 51 at 1.00pm, two days later. By 24 April, engine test runs together with low – and medium-speed taxi tests had been successfully completed. It was now time for Lou Schalk to take to the aircraft on a high-speed taxi run that would culminate in a momentary lift off and landing roll-out onto the dry salt lake-bed. For this first ‘hop’ the stabili­ty augmentation system (SAS) was left uncoupled; it would be properly tested in flight. As A-12 article number 121 accelerated down the runway, Lou recalled:- “I had a very light load of fuel so it sort of accelerated

really fast… I was probably three or four per cent behind the aft limit centre of gravity when I lifted off the airplane, so it was unstable… Immediately after lift-off, I really didn’t think I was going to be able to put the airplane back on the ground safely because of lateral, directional and longitudinal oscillations. The airplane was very difficult to handle but I finally caught up with everything that was happening, got control back enough to set it back down, and chop engine power. Touchdown was on the lake bed instead of the runway, creating a tremendous cloud of dust into which 1 disappeared entirely. The tower controllers were calling me to find

Below Developed for the F-108, the Hughes ASG-18 radar intercept system, together with its GAR-9 missile, remained under development and both were flight tested in this special­ly modified B-58, nicknamed ‘Snoopy Г, due to its extended nose profile. Note camera pods under outboard engines to record missile separations. (Paul Crickmore Collection)

Further Developments
Bottom Kelly, up at Area SI, stands next to the third and final YF-I2A interceptor, Article 1003, serial 60-6936. (Lockheed Martin)

Further Developments

out what was happening and I was answering, but the UHF antenna was located on the underside of the airplane (for best transmission in flight) and no one could hear me. Finally, when I slowed down and started my turn on the lake bed and re-emerged from the dust cloud, everyone breathed a sigh of relief.”

Two days later Lou took the Oxcart on a full flight. A faultless 07:05am take off was followed shortly thereafter by all the left wing fillets being shed. Constructed from RAM, luckily these elements were non-structural and Lou recovered the aircraft back to Area 51 without further incident.

On 30 April – nearly a year behind schedule – Lou took the A-12 on its ‘official’ first flight. With appropriate government representatives on hand the 59-minute flight took the aircraft to a top speed and altitude of 340kts and 30,000ft. On 4 May, the aircraft went supersonic for the first time, reaching Mach 1.1. Kelly began to feel confi­dent that the flight test programme w’ould now progress rapidly, even recovering some time lost during the protracted manufacturing process. Another Lockheed test pilot, Bill Park joined the Skunk Works team to share the burden with Lou. On 26 June, the second A-12 arrived at Area 51 and was immediately assigned to a three-month static RCS test programme. The third and fourth aircraft arrived during October and November, the latter was a two-seat A-12 trainer, nicknamed ‘the Goose’ by its crews. The aircraft was powered throughout its life by two J75s. On 5 October, another milestone was achieved when the A-12 flew for the first time with a J58, (a J75 was retained in the right nacelle until 15 January 1963, when the first fully J58-powered flight took place).

When Randy Anderson’s U-2 was shot down by an SA-2 over Cuba on 27 October 1962, the U-2’s vulnera­bility was once again demonstrated in spectacular fashion. The significance of the incident was certainly not lost on

Above YF-12 A prototype, Article 1001, serial 60-6934, makes a low, fast pass for the cameras. Note the extended ventral fin together with the fins under its engine nacelles to improve longitudinal stability, together with the under-side camera pods to record missile separation and the IR sensor in the forward chine below the cockpit. (Lockheed Martin)

Below Boeing JQB-47E-45BO, serial 53-4256, was one of a number of remotely piloted B-47 drones used to evaluate missile and radar performance. It was operated by the 3214th drone maintenance Squadron, at Eglin AFB, during the YF-12 trials off Florida. Note stencilling. (Paul Crickmore Collection)

Further Developments

Right When the YF-12 programme was cancelled Col J Sullivan and Col R Uppstrom ferried the aircraft to Wright-Patterson AFB where it is now on permanent display at the Air Force Museum as the sole surviving example. (Lockheed Martin)

intelligence communities involved in Oxcart and the successful prosecution of that programme now became a matter of highest national priority.

A third Lockheed test pilot, Jim Eastham, was recruit­ed into Oxcart, but still the programme was beset with problems, most of which were focused around the engines and Air Inlet Control System (AICS). The AICS regulat­ed massive internal air flow throughout the aircraft’s vast flight envelope, controlling and supplying air to the engines at the correct velocity and pressure. This was achieved using a combination of bypass doors and trans­lating centre-body spike position. At ground idle, taxying and take-off, the spikes were positioned in the full- forward position, allowing air to flow unimpeded to the engine’s compressor face. In addition, supplementary flow was provided through the spike exit-louvres and from six forward bypass exit-louvres. Early tests revealed that the engine required an even greater supply of air when oper­ating at low power settings. This deficiency was overcome by installing additional bypass doors just forward of the compressor face. The size of these variable-area ‘inlet ports’ was regulated by an external slotted-band and could draw air through two sets of doors. The task of opening or closing these doors was manually controlled by the pilot initially, but this was accomplished much later automatically, when a Digital Automatic Flight Inlet

Control System (DAFICS) computer was developed. – i

Together, the forward bypass doors and the centre-bodv m spikes were used to control the position of the normal £

shockwave just aft of the inlet throat. To avoid the loss of ^ inlet efficiency, caused by an improperly positioned shockwave, the wave was captured and held inside the converging-diverging nozzle slightly behind the narrowest part of the ‘throat’, allowing the maximum pressure rise across the normal shock. Once airborne with landing gear retracted, the forward bypass doors closed automatically.

Further Developments

At Mach 1.4 the doors began to modulate automatically to obtain a programmed pressure ratio between ‘dynamic’ pressure at the inlet cowl on one side of the ‘throat’ and ‘static’ duct pressure on the other side. At 30,000ft and Mach 1.6, the inlet spike unlocked and commenced its rearward translation, completing its full aft movement of 26 inches at designated speed Mach 3.2 (the inlet’s most efficient speed). Spike scheduling was determined as a function of Mach number, with a bias for abnormal angle of attack, angle of side slip, or rate of vertical accelera­tion. The rearward translation of the spike gradually repositioned the oblique shock wave, which extended back from the spike tip, and the normal shockwave, standing at right angles to the air flow, and increased the inlet contraction ratio (the ratio between the inlet area and the ‘throat’ area). At Mach 3.2, with the spike fully aft, the

Подпись:‘capture-airstream-tube-area’ had increased 112 per cent (from 8.7sq ft to 18.5 sq ft), while the ‘throat’ restriction had decreased to 46 per cent of its former size (from 7.7 sq ft to 4.16 sq ft).

A peripheral ‘shock trap’ bleed slot (positioned around the inside surface of the duct, just forward of the ‘throat’ and set at precisely two boundary layer displacement thickness) ‘shaved’ off seven per cent of the inlet airflow and stabilised the terminal (normal) shock. This was then rammed across the bypass plenum, through 32 shock trap tubes, spaced at regular intervals around the circumfer­ence of the shock trap. As the compressed air travelled through the secondary passage, it firmly closed the suck – in doors while cooling the exterior of the engine casing before exhausting through the ejector nozzle. Boundary’ layer air was also removed from the surface of the centre – body spike at the point if its maximum diameter. This potentially turbulent air was then ducted through the spikes hollow supporting struts and dumped overboard, through nacelle exit louvres. The bypass system was thus able to match widely varying volumes of air entering the inlet system, with an equal volume of air leaving the ejector nozzle throughout the entire speed range of the aircraft.

The aft bypass doors were opened at mid Mach to minimise the aerodynamic drag which resulted from dump­ing air overboard through the forward bypass doors. The inlet system created internal pressures which reached 181bs per square inch when operating at Mach 3.2 and 80,000ft, where the ambient air pressure was only 0.4lbs per square inch. This extremely large pressure differential generated

Further Developments

Above Between 11 December 1969 and ЗI October 1979, NASA and the US Air Force embarked upon a joint high alti­tude test programme which required the use of two YF-12s and an SR-71. YF-12 60-6936 however was lost on 24 June 1971; both Lt Col ‘Jack’ Layton and Systems Operator Maj Bill Curtis ejected safely. SR-71 A, Article 2002, serial 64-17951 was redesignated YF-12C for political reasons and given the serial number 60-6937. (NASA)

Further Developments

Below The NASA flight test team were (left to right) Ray Young, Fitzhugh Fulton. Donald Mallick and Victor Horton. (NASA)

Подпись: Above and above right The redesigned forward forebody of the YF-12 compared to an SR-71 is immediately apparent. (Lockheed Martin)


Further Developments

Right This Skunk Works document dated 6 April 1967, shows what the Air Force could have had – a Mach 3.2 reconnaissance aircraft, SR-71- a bomber, B-7I – and interceptor, F-12. (Paul Crickmone Collection) .

a pressure gradient, which in turn created a forward thrust vector, resulting in the forward inlet producing 54 per cent of the total thrust. A further 29 per cent was produced by the ejector, while the J58 engine contributed only 17 per cent of the total thrust at high Mach.

Inlet airflow disturbances resulted if the delicate balance of airflow conditions that maintained the shock­wave in its normal position were upset. Such disturbances were called ‘unstarts’. These disruptions occurred when the normally-placed supersonic shockwave was ‘belched’ forward from a balanced position in the inlet throat, caus­ing an instant drop in inlet pressure and thrust. With the engines mounted at mid-semi-span, the shockwave depar­ture manifested itself in a vicious yaw toward the ‘unstarted’ inlet. Sometimes these were so violent that crew members’ helmets would be knocked hard against the canopy framing. To break a sustained unstart and recapture the disturbed inlet shock wave, the pilot would have to open the bypass doors on the unstarted inlet and return them to the smooth-flowing, but less efficient posi­tion that they had occupied prior to the disturbance.

Early A-12 test flights involved increasing the aircraft’s speed by increments of one tenth of a Mach number and manually selecting the next spike position. If the inlet dynamics worked well, the aircraft was decelerated and recovered back to ‘the Area’; there the dynamics would be further analysed and incorporated. More often howev­er there would be a mismatch between spike position and inlet duct requirements and a vicious unstart would result. In all, it took 66 flights to push the speed enve­lope out from Mach 2.0 to Mach 3.2 and it wasn’t until pneumatic pressure gauges, installed on the inlet systems to sense pressure variations of as little as one-quarter of a pound per square inch, were replaced by an electrically controlled system from aircraft number nine (60-6932) onwards, that the incidence of unstarts plummetted.


Further Developments

Aircraft Losses

Unlike their Senior Trend counterparts at Area 51, the operational pilots at TTR lived a bat-like existence, – sleeping during the day and fly ing only at night, it was both highly demanding and chronically tiring. At 01:13 hours on Friday 11 July 1986, in excellent weather and good visibility, Maj Ross E Mulhare departed Tonopah in aircraft ’792, callsign Ariel 31. 31 minutes later, ’792 ploughed into a hillside 2,280 ft above sea level, killing its

Above A-7s were used to provide pilots with a cover story for the 4450th’s actual mission. (USAF)

Below Pilots of the 37thTFW, 4I6TFS (Ghost Riders),attend a training briefing. (USAF)

Above Ordinance specialists load a 2,0001b GBU-10 practice bomb aboard a 37 TFW aircraft (USAF).

Right In April 1986, two RAF test pilots from Boscombe Down were invited to evaluate the F-l 17 at Tonopah, a fact. that remained shrouded in secrecy for over ten years. One of them, Sqd Ldr Dave Southwood. is seen pictured in an ETPS Jaguar.

(Crown Copy DERA, Boscombe Down)

pilot. The prime reason behind this horrific accident was almost certainly pilot fatigue and spatial disorientation.

The 4450th lost a second F-117A and pilot on 14 October 1987. Major Michael C Stewart got airborne front Tonopah at 19:53 hours, in aircraft ‘815, callsign BURNR 54. In common with the loss of ‘792, the accident report failed to clearly determine the cause, but yet again, repeated references were made to pilot fatigue and disorientation.

Six days after the tragic loss of Major Stewart, the 4450th became the centre of more unwanted attention, prompted by the loss of yet another of its aircraft. On this occasion Major Bruce L Teagarden (Bandit 222) safe­ly ejected from an A-7D after the aircraft lost power. Disastrously, the A-7 crashed into the Rantada Inn Hotel, near Indianapolis airport, killing nine people in the process, h’ollowing a detailed accident investigation however, Bruce was cleared of all culpability surrounding

Above On 10 November 1988, moves began to ease Senior Trend out of the Black, when Assistant Secretary of Defence J Daniel Howard first showed off this grainy picture at a Pentagon press conference. (USAF)

Below In September 1989, the 37th traded in its A-7s for more fuel efficient T-38s. (Lockheed Martin)

the tragic incident. Although publicly acknowledged as being a member of the 4450th, the unit was not known to have any links with Tonopah, ensuring that Senior Trend remained in the black.

During a Pentagon press conference on 10 November 1988, Assistant Secretary of Defense J. Daniel Howard, revealed to the world an extremely ‘grainy’ photograph of the F-117 and Senior Trend was slowly eased into the ‘white world’.

Gone was the need to shelter the 4450th’s covert activi­ty behind a valid aircraft type. Consequently in September 1989, the Wing said farewell to the trusty ‘SlufF and instead operated far more economical T-38A Talons, and later AT-38Bs, in the chase pilot proficiency role. Yet another change took place on 5 October 1989: the 4450th TG, together with its component squadrons, was redesignated. The parent designation was changed to the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing, the 4450th (Nightstalkers) together with the 4451st Test Squadron, became the 415th (Nightstalkers) and the 416th (Ghost Riders) respectively. The 4453rd Test and Evaluation Squadron (Grim

Above F-117A 802. first flew on 7 March 1984, it is pictured here over Lake Tahoe. (Lockheed Martin)

Reapers) continued in its responsibility as the Wings train­ing squadron, becoming instead the 417th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron (Bandits). The new designations had a proud historical provenance, being the first US night – fighter squadrons of the Second World War.

The YF-12

The YF-12

During December 1960, a separate project group working independently of the A-12 team, under Rus Daniell, was organised in the Skunk Works. From joint 715, (a point perpendicular to where the inboard wing leading edge meets the fuselage chine), the entire forward fuselage forebody of an A-12 was modified to create a Mach 3.2 interceptor. Originally designated AF-12, its 1,3801b Hughes AN/ASG-18 pulse Doppler radar and 818 lbs GAR-9 missile, had been intended for the North American F-108 Rapier, however following cancellation on 23 September 1959, DoD officials decided that devel­opment of this outstanding system should continue on a ‘stand alone’ basis. Therefore Hughes continued R&D

Above Bob Gilliland completes a fly by in ‘950 on its maiden flight over runway 25 at Palmdale. He is being chased by Jim Eastham in F-104 60790. (Lockheed Martin)

Below Lockheed test pilot Bill Weaver survived a Mach 3.1 break-up accident at an altitude of 81,000ft, in SR-7IA, 64­17952, on 25 January l966.Tragically, his flight test engineer, Jim Zwayer was killed. (Lockheed Martin)

Below right SR-7IA 64-17953 crashed on 18 December 1969 after an inflight explosion. Lt Col Joe Rogers and RSO Lt Col Garry Heidlebaugh ejected safely. (Lockheed Martin)

The YF-12Below, right and below right Lt Col Bill Skliar (pictured) and his RSO, Maj Noel Warner, had a lucky escape at Edwards on I I April 1969, when a wheel disintegrated on rotation and set

80,0 lbs of JP-7 ablaze. Luckily both men managed to escape uninjured. SR-71 A, 64-17954 however, was written off. (Paul Crickmore Collection)

The YF-12

The YF-12

work with both systems utilising a specially modified Convair B-58A Hustler.

On 31 May 1960, the Air Force conducted a mock-up review of the AF-12 and were duly impressed. By June, AF-12 wind turned tests revealed directional stability problems resulting from the heavily revised nose profile and cockpit configuration. As a result a large folding fin was mounted under the aft fuselage, as were two shorter fixed fins beneath each nacelle. A bomber version of the A-12, designated the RB-12, also reached the mock-up stage, but this would prove to be still-born, as it repre-, sented too much of a threat to the highly political North American XB-70A Valkyrie. On 7 August 1963, several weeks after being moved to Area 51, Jim Eastham climbed aboard the interceptor prototype and took aircraft 60-6934

(the seventh A-12), for its first flight; a flight he would later modestly describe as a ‘typical production test flight’.

On 24 May 1963, the program received a temporary set back when Agency pilot Ken Collins was forced to eject from A-12 60-6926, during a subsonic test flight. The crash occurred 14 miles south of Wendover, Utah; a press cover story referred to the aircraft as being a Republic F – 105 Thunderchief, thus preserving security. An accident investigation established the cause of the incident to be a pilot-static system failure due to icing.

As 1963 drew to a close, nine A-12s at Groom Lake had notched up a total of 573 flights totalling 765 hours. A year later, eleven A-12s had logged over 1,214 flights amounting to 1,669 hours – only 6 hours 23 minutes however was at Mach 3 and only 33 minutes at design

Подпись:speed, Mach 3.2. As Oxcart grew in size and cost, concern was expressed within both the Agency and Air Force as to how much longer the program could be kept a secret. It was also noted that technological data accumu­lated during the project would be of immense value in conjunction with ‘white world’ feasibility studies into supersonic passenger transport. In November 1963, President Johnson was briefed on the programme, after which he directed that a formal announcement be prepared for release early in the new year. Kelly Johnson noted in his diary “Plans going forward for surfacing of the AF-12 program. I worked on the draft to be used by President Johnson and proposed the terminology ‘А-1Г as it was the non-anti-radar version.” On Saturday 29 February 1964, a few’ hours prior to the President announcing the existence of part of the programme, two AF-12s, 60-6934 and 60-6935 were flown from Area 51 to Edwards AFB, by Lou Schalk and Bob Gilliland, thereby diverting attention away from Area 51 and the ‘black w’orld’ A-12 programme. At Edwards a ‘buzz’ had gone out to a few senior staff that something special might be happening on the first morning of their weekend off. In consequence, a few1 dozen people witnessed the arrival of the extremely sleek interceptor, the like of which no one outside the programme had seen – except for a few desert dwellers and the occasional incredulous sighting by airline crews. Lou Schalk recalls taxying to their assigned hangar as eyes bulged and heads nodded in utter disbelief. Unfortunately, the arrival lost a touch of elegance w hen, to aid push-back into the hangar, they turned the aircraft through 180 degrees. Lou recalls “ This turnaround sent hot engine exhaust gases flooding into the hangar which caused the overhead fire extinguishers valves to open. These valves were big – like the flood valves on hangar decks of aircraft carriers – and the desert hadn’t seen so much water since Noah’s embarkation!”

The YF-12

Above The rear fuselage section, aft of joint 715, is moved on to the next jig. (Lockheed Martin)

The YF-12

Below Temperatures excountered whilst at cruise speed and altitude dictated the use of titanium. (Lockheed Martin)

Now an Air Force program, the aircraft’s designation was changed to YF-12A to suit their system. The third YF-12A, 60-6936, soon joined the other two at Edwards and Jim Eastham continued the envelope expansion programme. On 16 April 1964, the first airborne AIM-47 missile separation test was conducted. Unfortunately, as onboard cameras showed, the weapon’s nose-down pitch was inadequate: had the rocket motor ignition also been fired, the missile would probably have ended up in the front cockpit! Back at ‘the Ranch’, on 9 July 1964, Bill Park experienced a complete lock-up of his flight controls in aircraft 60-6939 as he descended for landing following a high Mach flight. Despite trying to save the brand-new aircraft from rolling under while turning on to final approach, he couldn’t stop the bank angle from increasing and was forced to eject. Punching out at 200kts in a 34 degree bank, no more than 200 ft above the ground, Park was extremely lucky to survive unscathed.

A milestone in the programme was reached on 27 January 1965, when an A-12 flew’ a 2,580 mile sortie in one hour forty minutes, w’ith three-quarters of the flight time spent at Mach 3.1. On 18 March, YF-12A ‘935 successfully engaged a Qj2C target drone at 40,000ft, whilst the interceptor flew at Mach 2.2 and 65,000ft.

Then on 1 May 1965 (five years to the day that Gary Powers was shot down in his U-2), YF-12A 60-6936 siczed back from the Soviet Union six world speed and altitude records. Fourteen days later, the Skunk Works

The YF-12

Above To reduce the SR-71’s radar signature, radar absorbent material (RAM) is used. (Lockheed Martin)

Подпись: THE SR-7 I

The YF-12

Below An ingenious stand-off clip, developed by Skunk Works engineers, overcame the problem of attaching thin titanium sheets to bulkier structural components, without the former tearing due to expansion rates differentials. (Lockheed Martin)

Подпись: AVIATION PIONEERS: LOCKHEED’S BLACKWORLD SKUNK WORKSThe YF-12Above The SR-71 is powered by two Pratt & Whitney JT11D-20 engines, designated J58 by the military. (Paul Crickmore)

below and bottom To regulate the amount of air required by the propulsion system throughout its vast operating envelope, the centrebody spike translates back and forth. (Paul Crikcmore)

The YF-12

The YF-12

received a contract for S500,000 for the production version of the interceptor, designated F-12B. However, production go-ahead was not given with the engineering contract. Nonetheless, considerable optimism was generat­ed. A further half-million dollars was granted on 10 November to keep basic F-12B design work alive. Similarly, Hughes received S4.S million to continue devel­opment of the AN/ASG-18 radar and fire control system.

On 29 March 1966, Kelly had a long meeting with Col Ben Beilis, System Project Officer (SPO) at Hughes Aircraft Company and various members of the F-12 test force, during which he was asked to take on the task of integrating the weapons systems; this he agreed to do and fire control tests were continued. However, Secretary of Defence McNamara opposed production of the aircraft.

As a result, on three occasions over the intervening two years, he denied the Air Force access to S90 million worth of funds which had been appropriated by Congress to begin F-12B production. Following a Senate Armed Sendees Committee hearing into the future of continental air defence, it was decided, in the light of intelligence

The YF-12

The YF-12available at the time, to downgrade Aerospace Defence Command, which rendered the F-12B unnecessary. On 5 January 1968, official notification was received from the Air Force to ‘close down the F-12B’; the YF-12A programme was formally ended on I February 1968.

It would be the Blackworld, A-12 Oxcart program that validated the concept of sustained high Mach flight, but there was still a way to go…

Just Cause

The F-117A received its baptism of fire on the night of 19/20 December 1989, w hilst participating in a highly controversial action against General Noriega of Panama, codenamed Operation Just Cause. Panama had no defen­sive radar network. However, it was decided to commit these high value assets on the basis of their bombing accuracy. Consequently, eight F-l 17s from the 415th TFS took off from Tonopah. Two aircraft w ere airborne spares and returned to Tonopah follow ing completion of the

Below The USAF took delivery of its last F-1 17A, aircraft ‘843 on 12 July 1990. (Lockheed Martin)

initial AR, two aircraft in the lead cell, were targeted to attack an army base at Rio Hato, 65 miles southwest of Panama city. The four remaining aircraft were to take part in an operation which remains classified, but involved special forces attempting to capture Noriega.

This element of the mission was air aborted through lack of ground intelligence. The three thousand mile round trip required five AR’s, and was supported by KC-lOs from the 22nd Air Refuelling Wing, out of March AFB. This ever dependable unit, actually escorted the F-l 17As from Tonopah, all the way down to the Panamanian coast and back! The objective of Major Greg Feest, flying lead, in aircraft ’816, and his wingman Major Dale Hanner (Bandit 239) was to drop one weapon apiece, in an open field adjacent to barracks belonging to Battalion 2000, a unit known to be loyal to Noriega. Their purpose was to stun the sleeping soldiers and disorientate them before they had an opportunity to engage parachute landings by the 2nd and elements of the 3rd Ranger Battalion. However, three hours before the invasion was due to begin, the PDF were alerted to the impending attack and

deployed to one of the Ranger’s objectives – an air strip. As the two F-117As approached their target area, the wind changed direction, a target change was called, caus­ing confusion; the subsequent bombing results were at best questionable. The Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Les Aspin, later stated that target acquisition problems had also added to the pilots’ confu­sion because, “The humid, varied, vegetation… lowered the contrast and gave the [IRAD] system problems”.

Agency A-12 Operations

By late 1965, all of the Agency pilots were Mach 3 qualified and the A-12 was ready for operational testing. Despite this, political sensitivities surrounding the Gary Powers shoot-down five years earlier ensured that the aircraft would never carry out missions over the USSR. Where then should this multi-million dollar national security asset be deployed? The initial answer was Cuba. By early 1964, Project Headquarters, had already begun planning contingency overflights under a programme code-name ‘Skylark’. On 5 August 1965, the Director of
the National Security Agency (NSA), Gen Marshall S Carter, directed that “Skylark achieve emergency opera­tional readiness by 5 November”; this was indeed achieved, but there was never a deployment. Instead Cygnus, as Agency pilots referred to the A-12, would receive its baptism of fire in the skies over South East Asia. Moves to this end had begun on 22 March 1965 when, following a meeting with Brig Gen Jack Ledford (the CIA/USAF liaison officer), Secretary of Defence (Sec Def) Cyrus Vance, granted S3.7 million to provide support facilities at Kadcna AB, Okinawa for a planned deployment of Cygnus aircraft under a project code­named Blackshield. On 3 June, secretary McNamara consulted the under Secretary of the Air Force about the build-up of SA-2s around Hanoi and the possibility of substituting the more vulnerable U-2s with A-12s to conduct recce flights over the North Vietnamese capital. He was informed that once adequate aircraft performance was validated, Blackshield could be cleared to go.

Four aircraft were selected for Blackshield operations,
Kelly Johnson taking personal responsibility for ensuring

Left To allow engine access for maintenance, the entire outer
wing section is hinged along the top nacelle. (Paul Crickmore)

Подпись: ч i m </> я

Подпись: ammccT ims SUCK - m xxxs очи
Agency A-12 Operations

Be/ow At the heart of the SR-71’s propulsion is a complex Air Inlet Control System (AICS), utilising a combination of bypass doors, territory doors, the centre spike and suck in doors, to regulate and balance total airflow in order to reach the aircraft’s designated sustained cruise speed of Mach 3.2. (Pau! Crickmore Collection)

Подпись:they were completely ‘squawk-free’. On 20 November 1965 an A-12 completed a maximum endurance flight of six hours twenty minutes, during which it reached speeds above Mach 3.2 and altitudes approaching 90,000ft. On 2 December, the highly secretive ‘303 Committee’ received the first of many proposals to deploy Oxcart to the Far East. However, the proposal, together with several subse­quent submissions made throughout 1966, was rejected. On 5 January 1967, another tragedy hit the programme when A-12 60-6928 crashed some 70 miles short of Groom Dry Lake. Its pilot Walt Ray ejected but was killed when he was unable to gain seat separation.

In early May 1967, the National Security Council was briefed that North Vietnam was about to receive surface- to-surface ballistic missiles. Such a serious escalation of the conflict would certainly need to be substantiated with hard evidence, consequently President Johnson was briefed. Richard Helms of the CIA proposed that the 303 committee authorise deployment of Oxcart, on the basis of the A-12s having a superior camera to that used by U-2s or pilotless drones and being ‘invulnerable to shoot- downs’. President Johnson approved the plan and in mid-May an airlift was begun to establish Blackshield at Kadena AB, on Okinawa, Japan.

At 0800 on 22 May 1967 Mele Vojvodich deployed A-12 60-6937 from Area 51 to Okinawa during a flight which lasted six hours, six minutes and included three air refuellings. Two days later Jack Layton joined Mele in 60-6930 and 60-6932 flown by Jack Weeks arrived on Okinawa on the 27th, having been forced to divert into Wake Island for a day, following INS and radio problems. The detachment was declared ready for operations on 29 May and following weather reconnaissance flights of the 30th, it was determined that conditions were ideal for
an A-12 camera run over North Vietnam. Project Headquarters in Washington placed Blackshield on alert for its first operational mission. Avionics specialists checked various systems and sensors, and at 1600hrs Mele Vojvodich and back-up pilot Jack Layton attended a mission alert briefing. At 2200hrs (12 hours before planned take-of time) a review of the weather confirmed

Agency A-12 Operations

Above A wide variety of specialist support equipment was need­ed; shown here are liquid oxygen trailers. (Paul Crickmore)

Right The SR-71’s cockpit certainly reflects its age – no multi­functional displays here! (Paul Crickmore)

Below The Reconnaissance Systems Officer’s position is by comparison a little more user-friendly, as seen in this shot of the simulator at Edwards. (Paul Crickmore)

Agency A-12 Operations

Agency A-12 Operations

Agency A-12 Operations


the mission was still on, so the pilots went to bed to ensure they got a full eight hours of crew rest.

They awoke on the morning of the 31st to torrential rain – a new phenomenon to desert-dwelling A-12s. However met conditions over ‘the collection area’ were good and at 0800 Kadena received a final ‘go’ from Washington. On cue, Mele engaged both afterburners and made the first instrument-guided take-off of an A-12. A few minutes later he burst through cloud and flew 60­6937 up to 25,000ft, topped-off the tanks from a KC-135, then accelerated and climbed to operational speed and altitude. With all systems up and running, he informed Kadena (‘home-plate’), that the backup sendees of Jack Layton wouldn’t be required. Mele penetrated hostile airspace at Mach 3.2 and 80,000ft over Haiphong, before overflying Hanoi and exiting North Vietnam near Dien Bien Phu. A second air refuelling took place over Thailand, followed by another climb to altitude and a second penetration of North Vietnamese airspace made near the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), after which he recovered the aircraft, after three instrument approaches in driving rain, back at Kadena. In all the flight had lasted three hours and 40 minutes. Several SA-2s were fired at the aircraft but all detonated above and well behind their target. The ‘photo-take’ was downloaded and sent by a special courier aircraft to the Eastman Kodak plant in Rochester, New York, for processing. ‘937’s high resolution Type IV camera developed by Hycon had successfully photographed ten priority target categories, including 70 of the 190 known SAM sites. By mid-July, A-12 overflights had determined with a high degree of confidence that there were no surface-to-surface missiles in North Vietnam.

During a sortie Down by Denny Sullivan on 28 October 1967, he had indications on his Radar Homing Warning Receiver (RHWR), of almost continuous radar activity focused on his A-12, whilst both inbound and outbound over North Vietnam, which also included the launch of a single SA-2. Two days later he was again flying high over North Vietnam when two SAM sites tracked him on his first pass. On his second pass, approaching Hanoi from the East, he again noted he was being tracked on radar, Over the next few minutes he counted no less than eight SA-2 detonations in ‘the general area, though none were particularly close’. After recovering the aircraft back at Kadena without further incident, a post-flight inspection revealed that a tiny piece of shrapnel had penetrated the lower wing fillet of his aircraft and become lodged against the support structure of the wing tank – this would prove to be the only occasion that a ‘Blackbird’ took ‘a hit’.

Back at Area 51 the year ended with the loss of another A-12 when, on 28 December 1967, Mele Vojvodich took aircraft 60-6929 for a functional check flight (FCF) following a period of deep maintenance.

On applying back pressure to the stick for rotation to lift-off, the aircraft’s nose yawed viciously to one side. Mele attempted to correct the yaw with rudder, but this caused ‘929’s nose to pitch-up. The rush of instinctive responses which followed resulted in a series of counter movements, completely opposite to those a pilot would expect to occur. Despite all the odds, Mele managed to get the aircraft to about 100ft, where he ejected after just

Agency A-12 Operations

Above Evolution of the pressure suit continued throughout the Senior Crown programme. Here crew members undergoing water survival training are wearing chocolate brown S901 suits, with which some were equipped during the early 1970s. (Paul Crickmore)

Below Major Brian Shul gets suited up in his S1030 ‘gold suit’.

(Paul Crickmore)

Agency A-12 Operations

Agency A-12 Operations

Above Pilot Maj Rich Judson and RSO Maj Frank Kelly are driven out to their waiting aircraft in the PSD van. (Pau Crickmore)

Be/owThe SI030 suits cost $30,000 each, last between 10 and 12 years, undergo a complete overhaul every five years and a thorough inspection every 90 days or 150 hours. (Paul


Agency A-12 Operations

six seconds of flight. Incredibly, he too survived and escaped serious injury. An accident investigation discovered that when the unit was re-installed following maintenance, the pitch Stability Augmentation System (SAS), had been connected to the yaw SAS actuators and vice-versa. Thereafter, the SAS connectors were changed to ensure incorrect wiring was impossible.

During 1967, a total of 41 A-12 missions were alerted, of which 22 were actually granted approval for flight. Between 1 January and 31 March 1968, 15 missions were alerted, of which only six were flown, four over North Vietnam and two over North Korea. The latter two came about as a result of the USS Pueblo – a US Navy Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) vessel being seized by North Korea during the night of 23 January. The first sortie was attempted by Jack Weeks on 25 January, but a malfunc­tion on the A-12 resulted in an abort shortly after take off. The next day Frank Murray completed the task: “I left Kadena, topped-off, then entered northern airspace over the Sea of Japan via the Korean Straits. My first pass started off near Vladivostok, then with the camera on I flew down the east coast of North Korea where we thought the boat was. As I approached Wonsan I could see the Pueblo through my view sight. The harbour was all iced up except at the very entrance and there she was, sitting off to the right of the main entrance. I continued to the border with South Korea, completed a 180-degree turn and flew back over North Korea. I made four passes photographing the whole of North Korea from the DMZ to the Yalu border. As far as I know, I was undetected throughout the flight, but when I got back to Kadena some folks told me that the Chinese had detected me and told the North Koreans, but they never reacted.” Back at Kadena ‘the take’ was immediately flown to Yakota AB, Japan where the 67th Reconnaissance Technical Squadron had been activated to enable the more timely exploitation of such data by theatre commanders.


Agency A-12 Operations

On 8 May 1968, Jack Layton successfully completed the A-12’s second mission over North Korea; it was to prove the final operational flight of an A-12. A long standing debate concerning whether the A-12 or a programme known as Senior Crown should carry forward the strategic reconnaissance baton, had, after three years, been resolved. Oxcart was vanquished. In early March 1968, SR-71s began arriving at Kadena to take over the Blackshield commitment. Those A-12s back at ‘the Area’ were flown to Palmdale and placed in storage by 7 June. At Kadena, the three aircraft that had performed all the Blackshield missions were also readied for a return transpacific ferry flight. On 2 June 1968 however, tragedy hit the Oxcart program a final blow’, when Jack Weeks was killed during an FCF in 60-6932. The aircraft and its pilot were lost without trace in the Pacific Ocean. The two remaining A-12s on Okinawa, 60-6930 and 60-6937, were ferried back to Area 51, before being flown to Palmdale, the last (light being made by Frank Murray on 21 June 1968 in aircraft ‘937.

Desert Storm

At about 2am (Baghdad time) on 1/2 August 1990, three Iraqi Republican Guard divisions invaded Kuwait. In just four days Iraq secured the annexation of Kuwait and were massed menacingly along the Kuwaiti-Saudi border. A further push into Saudi Arabia would not only estab­lish Iraq as the secular leader of the Arab world, but would result in their controlling 45% of the world’s oil.

W ithin two days, F-15C Eagles, KC-10 tankers, E-3 AW’ACS and C-5 Galaxy transporters – carry ing advanced elements of the 82nd Airborne Division – had arrived in Saudi Arabia to draw “a line in the sand”, Operation Desert Shield had begun.

On 19 August 1990,22 F-117s from the 415 TFS staged through Langley AFB en route to King Khalid Air Base, Saudi Arabia.


Eighteen F-117s from the 415 TFS, led by Et Col Greg Feest arrived at King Khalid AB, at around noon, local time on Tuesday 21 August. Soon nicknamed Tonopah East, the facilities offered at the airbase were second to none and lay well beyond the range of Iraqi Scud-B missiles; however, on the down side, the return distance from the base to Baghdad necessitated the need for three ARs per sortie, with a typical mission lasting five hours.

The air armada ranged against Saddam Hussein contin­ued to build, as did the planning on how to deploy such an awesome force to maximum effect. General Chuck Horner, commander of Joint Air Forces (CENTAF) selected a white haired North Carolinan to develop the air campaign, one, Brig Gen Buster Glosson.

An F-4 jock in Vietnam, Glosson’s background had a profound impact on the management of Senior Trend during the war planning process. His most memorable experience of the F-117 occurred in 1987, while as commander of the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing, he recalls,

“1 had spent enough time in the F-15 trying to success­fully intercept the F-117, that I was a believer!… The initial twenty four hours of the Gulf War was meticulous­ly planned. I directed the planners to ask themselves three questions about every target they considered, what system had the highest probability of destroying it; what system had the highest probability of its pilot coming back alive, and what system had the highest probability of no civilian casualties. As you may expect, 99% of the

time, the answer to these questions was F-117. We did not have enough F – 117s to attack every target. So, 1 directed the F-117 to be used against the most critical, the most highly defended and diflicult-to-hit targets.

That gave us the greatest probability of accomplishing our strategic objectives and creating the utmost confusion and disruption. 1 used all the other systems, he they cruise missiles, fighters or bombers, as fillers.”

On 4 December, twenty F-117s from the 416th, ‘Ghost Riders’, deployed safely to King Khalid, and on the night of the 16/17 January 1991, offensive air operations against Iraq began.

Col Greg Feest recalls the night that validated stealth technology: “The entire first wave of F-117As launched w ithout radio communications, we didn’t want the Iraqis to get a ‘heads-up’ as to our plan. My callsign was Thunder 36 and my wingman, Captain Dave ‘Dogman’ Francis was Thunder 37. We took off and flew to the tanker without saying a word to each other. My radio was on but remained silent. Since the F-117A is a single-seat fighter, there was no copilot to talk to and the next sever­al hours would be extremely quiet. Having rendezvoused with the KC-135 tankers, we air refuelled and headed North, towards Iraq, while flying on each w ing of the tanker. The night was extremely dark and I was thankful, since 1 did not want the moon to silhouette my jet as 1 flew into Iraq.

‘At approximately 2:30 am, I topped off with fuel, ‘stealthed-up’ my aircraft and departed the tanker. In 20

Above General Buster Glosson was architect of the Gulf War air campaign. (Buster Glosson)

Right Facilities awaiting the F-1 17s at King Khalid were second to none. (USAF)

Below This aircraft, in one of the ‘canyons’ at King Khalid, has a segmented ladder unique to the F-117 operation placed on the aircraft for cockpit access. (USAF)

Below right Aircraft ‘818, pictured in its Hardened Aircraft Shelter (HAS) at King Khalid completed 38 operational missions during Desert Storm. (USAF)

Right This warning leaflet, featuring the F-l 17,was dispersed over several Iraqi air bases and reads, "This location is subject to bombardment! Escape now and save yourselves". (USAF)

Below Hal Farley participates in a fly-by in aircraft 831 on 6 December 1990 in preparation for Ben Rich’s retirement.

(Paul Cnckmone)

minutes I would drop the first bomb of Operation Desert Storm. Crossing the Iraqi border, 1 was nervous as I armed my weapons. My target was an IOC [Intercept Operations Centre] located in an underground bunker, southwest of Baghdad, near Nukhavb. This IOC was a key link between border radar sites and the air defense headquarters in Baghdad. Destroying it would allow other non-stcalthy aircraft to enter Iraq undetected.

‘Approaching the target I was apprehensive. Two thoughts crossed my mind. First, would I be able to iden­tify the target? Second, did the Air Force really want me to drop this bomb? These thoughts only lasted several seconds.

T had practised for three years and I could find and destroy any target within one second of my scheduled time-over-target (TOT). Having trained for so long, nothing was going to stop me from dropping my bombs. All I had to do was play, what 1 called, a highly sophisti­cated video game, and in 30 minutes I would be back in Saudi Arabia.

‘As 1 approached the target area, my adrenaline was up and instincts took over. My bomb was armed and my systems checked good. I found the target on my infrared (IR) display and concentrated on tracking the target by slewing the cross hairs over the aimpoint. The target had been easier to find than I envisioned. I was able to take time to glance outside the cockpit. Everything was dark except for a few lights in the town. It appeared that no one knew I was in the sky. Looking back at my display, my laser began to fire as I tracked the target. I waited for the display to tell me I was ‘in range’ and I depressed the ‘pickle’ button. Several seconds later the weapons bay door snapped open and I felt the 2,000 pound bomb depart the aircraft. The bay door slammed closed as I watched the IR display while continuing to keep the cross hairs on the target. The bomb appeared at the bottom of the display just before it hit. At exactly 2:51 am, I saw the bomb go through the cross hairs and penetrate the bunker. The explosion came out of the hole the bomb had made and blew out the doors of the bunker. I knew I

This page, all GBU-27s were particularly effective against Iraqi HASs. (USAF)

had knocked out the target. The video game was over.

‘Having destroyed the target, I turned my aircraft 210 degrees left to head for my second target. While in the turn, 1 decided to try and see my wingman’s bomb hit, since his was due one minute after mine. As I looked back I saw something completely unfamiliar. It looked like fireworks, big bursts of red and orange, Hying at me and lighting up the sky. After being stunned for several seconds, I realised it was tracers from triple A. During all my peacetime training missions flying exercises like Red Flag, I had never anticipated what actual triple A would look like. After all it cannot be simulated. 1 snapped my head forward and pushed the throttles up as far as they would go. I wanted out of the target area as fast as I could.

‘As I headed towards my second target, an Iraqi SOC [Sector Operations Centre] at the H-3 airfield in western Iraq, I looked out in front of my aircraft. 1 now saw what everybody at home sav on television. Tracers, flashes, and flak were all over the place. The w hole country had come alive with more triple A than I could ever imagine.

I watched several SAMs launch into the sky and fly through my altitude both in front and behind me. But none of them appeared to be guided. Stealth technology really seemed to work! Even if the AAA and SAMs were not guided, the intense ‘barrage fire’ in my target area was scary. All it would take was a lucky hit.

‘I decided to ignore what was happening outside my jet. I lowered my seat and concentrated on my displays. After all, w hat 1 couldn’t see couldn’t hurt me! I dropped my second bomb and turned as fast as I could back towards Saudi Arabia. I don’t think I ever manoeuvred the F-l 17A as aggressively as I did coming off my second target. For a second time in less than 30 minutes, I want­ed out of the target area as fast as possible.

for my 2-ship, 1 headed for the rejoin point. At a predesignated time, I called Dogntan on the radio to see if he was ready to rejoin. I prayed I would hear a response. I didn’t hear an answer, so I waited several seconds and tried again. This time I heard him answer. He said he had my aircraft in sight and was ready to rejoin. Now the question was, how many other Stealth Fighters would make it home?”

Today of course we know that all F-l 17s made it home, not just that night, but every night of the 43-day campaign. On 24 February at 03:00 hours (local), the coalition ground assault began. In true blitzkrieg fashion, it was all over in just three days. On 27 February, Kuwait City was liberated and a ceasefire declared.

Tagboard & Senior Bowl

On 10 October 1962, Kelly Johnson received authoriza­tion from the CIA to carry out study work on a drone that would be mated with an A-12. At the root of such a request was the US Government’s decision to discontinue overflight, following political fall-out after the Gary Powers shoot-down. Fourteen days later, Kelly, Ben Rich and Russ Daniell met representatives from Marquardt to discuss ramjet propulsion system options. Progress was rapid, on 7 December a full-scale mock-up of the craft was completed which was referred to within the Skunk Works as the Q-12. Still to receive mission specifications from the Agency, Kelly worked on producing a vehicle with a 3,000 n miles range hauling a Hycon camera system weighing 425 lbs and capable of a photographic

Tagboard &amp;amp; Senior Bowl

Top and Above To improve mission flexibility, the SR-71’s nose section is detachable, enabling the aircraft to be fitted with a ground mapping radar unit or a 30 inch Optical Bar Camera (OBC) for horizon-to-horizon panoramic scanning. (Paul Crickmore).

Opposite, top The original nose radar unit, carried by the SR-71, housed a Goodyear PIP which was later replaced by the Loral CAPRE. This was finally replaced by the high resolution Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar System (ASARSI), built again by Loral. This shot depicts the antenna belonging to the CAPRE system. (Lockheed Martin)

RightThe right aft mission bay compartments Q andT revealed, into which a palletised ‘close-look’ or Technical Objective, TEOC camera can be loaded. (Paul Crickmore)

Tagboard &amp;amp; Senior Bowl

resolution of 6 inches from operating altitude. The engine to be used was the Marquardt RJ43 – MA-3 Bomarc, and by October 1963, the overall configuration for the QM2 and its launch platforms – two purpose-built, modified A – 12s – were nearing completion. Code-named ‘Tagboard,’ the designation of both elements was also changed, the carrier vehicle became the ‘M’ – standing for “Mother” – 21 and the 12 became the ‘D – for “Daughter” – 21.

The 11,0001b D-21 was supported on the M-21 by a single, dorsallv mounted pylon. Upon reaching launch point, the mothership’s pilot maintained Mach 3.12 and initiated a 0.9 g push-over. Once released by the Launch Control Officer (LCO), sitting in what was, on other A-12 aircraft, the bay, the D-21 flew its sortie inde­pendently. Equipped with a Minneapolis-Honeywcll. inertial navigation system (INS), the D-21 would fly a pre-programmed flight profile, execute turns and camera

Tagboard &amp;amp; Senior Bowl

on/off points to produce the perfect photo-recce sortie. Having completed its camera run, the drone’s INS system then sent signals to the auto-pilot system to descend to a predetermined ‘feet wet’ film collection point. The entire palletised unit containing INS, camera and film was then ejected at 60,000 ft and Mach 1.67 and parachuted towards the ocean. As the drone continued its descent it was blown apart by a barometrically activated explosive charge. Meanwhile the air retrieval was executed by a JC -130B Hercules. On 12 August 1964, the first M-21 was dispatched to Groom Lake and on 22 December the first D-21/M-21 combination flight took place with Bill Park at the controls. Troubles however dogged Tagboard and it wasn’t until 5 March that the first successful D-21 launch was accomplished. The second launch on 27 April saw the drone reach Mach 3.3, 90,000ft and fly for 1,200 n miles, holding course within half a mile throughout. The

Tagboard &amp;amp; Senior BowlTagboard &amp;amp; Senior Bowl
Above A ‘first generation’ example of an enlarged OBC shot, taken by an SR-71 during a state-side training sortie whilst flying at Mach 3 and 80.000ft. Note the white lines delineating car parking spaces. (USAF)

Left An SR-7l’sTEOC, on its pallet, receives some maintenance – the shot was taken through a U-2’s drift-sight. (USAF)

flight came to an end after a hydraulic pump burned out and the D-21 fell out of the sky.

The Air Force remained interested in the drone and on

29 April 1966, a second batch of D-21s were ordered. On 16 June a third successful launch was made and the D-21 flew 1,600 miles, completing all tasks on the flight card except ejecting the all important camera pallet. The fourth and final D-21 sortie from the M-21 occurred on

30 July 1966 and ended in disaster when the drone collided with ‘941 moments after achieving launch separa­tion. The impact caused the mother craft to pitch up so violently that the fuselage forebody broke off. Both Bill Park and his LCO Ray Torick successfully ejected and made a ‘feet wet’ landing, but unfortunately Torick’s pressure suit filled with water and he drowned before he could be rescued. Bill Park spent an hour in the ocean before he was brought aboard a US Navy vessel.

The D-21 was grounded for a year whilst a new launch system was developed. This new operation, code-named Senior Bowl, involved the drone being launched from the
underwing pylons of two modified B-52Hs of the 4200th Test Wing based at Beale AFB. Upon launch the D-21B was accelerated to Mach 3.3 and 80,000ft by a solid propellant rocket developed by Lockheed Propulsion Company of Redlands, California. On achieving cruise speed and altitude the booster was jettisoned and the drone’s flight continued as described earlier. The first launch attempt from a BUFF was made on 6 November 1967; this proved unsuccessful, as did three other attempts. Success was finally achieved on 16 June 1968. Between 9 November 1969 and 20 March 1971, a total of four operational flights over China were attempted. To maintain tight security the B-52, hauling its unique payload, departed Beale at night and lumbered westwards to the Pacific Island of Guam. Just before dawn the next day the flight resumed, the bomber departing Guam and heading for the launch point. Upon vehicle separation, the Buff made its way back to Guam, while the D-21 embarked upon its pre-programmed day-time reconnais­sance run. Achieving only limited success, Senior Bowl was cancelled on 15 July 1971.

Senior Crown

Подпись: U-MS 3H1Whilst working on Oxcart back in the early spring of 1962, Kelly had mentioned the possibility of producing a reconnaissancc/strikc variant for the Air Force. Lockheed was duly issued with a 90-dav study contract, wherein the various Air Force mission options were identified and defined in terms of the A-12 platform. By the end of April 1962, two different mock-ups were under construc­tion referred to as the R-12 and RS-12. On 18 February

Tagboard &amp;amp; Senior Bowl

Tagboard &amp;amp; Senior Bowl

Below SR-71A 17964 undertook its first flight on I I May 1966 with Lockheed test pilot Bill Weaver at the controls and Steve Belgau in the back seat. (Lockheed Martin)

Bottom The second 9th SRW aircraft to be lost was 17965, which crashed on 25 October 1967, Pilot, Maj Roy St Martin and his RSO Capt John Carnochan ejected safely. (Lockheed Martin)

Подпись:1963, Lockheed received pre-contractual authority to build six aircraft, with the understanding that 25 aircraft would be ordered by 1 July. Col Leo Geary had been the RS-12’s Weapon System Program Officer, but after protracted debate, it was decided that the A-12 project group under Col. Templeton, would inherit the R-12, which became designated SR-71 by the Air Force. The RS-12 and later the B-12/B71 proposals for a strike – version of the aircraft would fail to win production contracts, despite Kelly having demonstrated to the Air Force the unique capabilities of such a platform. This was largely due to the far greater lobbying powers of the XB-70 anil later the l’B-111 fraternity. During a speech made on 24 July 1964, President Johnson revealed to the world the existence of the SR-71.

In August, Kelly phoned Bob Murphy and asked him if he wanted to work on the SR-71 programme. At the time, Murphy was a superintendent in charge of D-21 drone production. Drone number one was undergoing final check-out while nine others were at various stages of assembly. Bob accepted the offer and was immediately briefed by Kelly: “I want you to go to Palmdale and get site 2 away from Rockwell”. This achieved, the prototype SR-71A, serial 64-17950 (article number 2001), was deliv­ered from Burbank to Site 2, Air Force Plant 42,

Building 210, at Palmdale for final assembly on 29 October, by two large trailers specifically designed for the task. Earlier that y ear, Kelly had promoted the charismat­
ic Robert I Gilliland to the position of chief project pilot for the SR-71, a post for which Bob was admirably quali­fied, having gained a great deal of experience as a member of the F-104 and A-12 test teams.

With two )-58s installed, ‘950 conducted its first engine test run on 18 December 1964. Three days later, a ‘non­flight’ was completed, where Gilliland accelerated the aircraft to 120kts before snapping the throttles back to idle and deploying the large 40-feet drag chute. On 22 December 1964, Gilliland, using his personal callsign ‘Dutch 51’ successfully completed the first flight of an SR-71A in prototy pe 64-17950 – Article 2001 (the signifi­cance of this number being that it was the date Kelly

Tagboard &amp;amp; Senior Bowl

Tagboard &amp;amp; Senior Bowl

Below SR-71 17955 was operated extensively by Air Force Logistics Command from Plant 42. Palmdale and was dedicated SR-71 test aircraft. It is seen here in company with a U-2R.

(Lockheed Martin)

Above To celebrate America’s Bi-Centennial, several record breaking flights were made by SR-7ls which had a large white cross applied to their underside to assist ground based track­ing cameras. Here 17958 returns to earth. (Lockheed Martin)

believed would be reached before the aircraft became vulnerable to interception).

Aircraft 951 and 952 were added to the test fleet for contractor development of payload systems and tech­niques and shortly after the phase II, Developmental Test Programme was started, four other Lockheed test pilots were brought into the project: Jim Eastham, Bill Weaver, Art Peterson and Darrell Greenamyer.

Developmental efforts within Lockheed were matched b Air Force Systems Command (AFSC) where Col Ben Beilis had been appointed the SR-71 System Programme Officer (SPO). His task was to structure a ‘Development and Evaluation Programme’ that would evaluate the new aircraft for the Air Force, a program undertaken by the SR-71/YF12 Test Force, located at the Air Force Flight Test Centre, Edwards AFB. Both Phase 1 ‘Experimental’ and phase II ‘Development’ test flying had moved to Edwards where SR-71As 953, 954, and 955 were to be used by the ‘blue suiters’. However, the SR-71s were plagued by problems associated with the electrical system, tank sealing and difficulties in obtaining design range.

Whilst these problems were being worked at, Beale AFB, chosen home for the newcomer, had been undergo­ing an S8.4 million construction program which included the installation of an army of specialised technical support facilities. The 4200th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing was activated at Beale on 1 January 1965 and three months later, four support squadrons were formed. In Januarx 1966, Col Doug Nelson was appointed commander of the new x ing – a job for which he was eminently qualified, having been the Director of Operations for the Oxcart project. Doug began by selecting a small group of highly competent sub-commanders and Strategic Air Command (SAC) fliers to form the initial cadre of the SR-71 unit.

Bottom Due to high airframe temperatures when cruising at Mach 3.2, a special flash resistant fuel was developed. Known as JP-7, normal fuel igniters are unable to generate the heat required to set fuel burning during start-up or when engaging the afterburners. A chemical ignition system (CIS) was there­fore developed using Triethylborane (TEB), which ignites with a green flash. (Paul Crickmore)

Below With both ‘burners’ engaged, SR-71 A serial 17960, call­sign TRULY55 starts to roll down RAF Mildenhall’s runway.

Tagboard &amp;amp; Senior Bowl

(Paul Crickmore)

Tagboard &amp;amp; Senior Bowl


Tagboard &amp;amp; Senior Bowl

Tagboard &amp;amp; Senior BowlAbove Standard operating procedures call for the SR-71 to get airborne with a light fuel load, enabling it to land back immedi­ately should a problem develop. Once airborne, the first order of business is to ‘hook-up’ with the tanker and top-off with fuel.

(Paul Crickmore)

Right Prior to boom conect, the aircraft establishes itself in the pre-contact position. (Paul Crickmore)

Col Bill Hayes became the deputy commander lor main­tenance, Lt Col Ray Haupt, Chief Instructor Pilot, Col Walt W right commanded the Medical Group, Col Clyde Deaniston supervised all category III flight test planning and the flight crews were recruited from the best SAC bomber pilots and navigators in the service.

The first two of eight Northrop T-38 Talons arrived at Beale on 7 July 1965, to be used as ‘companion trainers’ to maintain overall flying proficiency for the SR-71 crew at a fraction of the cost of flying the main aircraft.

On 7 January 1966, Col Doug Nelson and his Chief Instructor, Lt Col Ray Haupt delivered the first SR-7 IB to Beale AFB. Five months later, on 14 April, Nelson and Maj A1 Pennington took delivery of Beale’s first SR – 71A, serial 64-17958. On 25 June 1966, the 4200th was redesignated the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing (SRW) its component flying squadrons being the 1st and 99th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadrons (SRS). Crew training and Category III Operational Testing then proceeded in earnest.

After the Storm

Back at Tonopah, arrangements were finalised to relocate the 37th Wing to Holloman AFB, New Mexico (NM). The first aircraft to be delivered was ’791, which arrived from Tonopah on 7 January 1992, for maintenance famil­iarisation. The move officially got underway however on 8 May, when aircraft ’814, flown by Lt Col ‘Moose’

Merritt of the 416th TFS touched down. On 8 July 1992, the 37th FW at Tonopah Test Range took part in an stand down ceremony, and at the same time the 37FW was deactivated and its assets transferred across to the 49FW. Similarly, command of the F-117A wing was also transferred from Col A1 Whitley to Brig Gen Lloyd ‘Fig’ Newton. Unusually however, the squadron designations of the F-117A units remained initially unchanged. The move at last reunited families, enabling them to join their loved ones in living quarters on or close to the base. It also eradicated the need for Key Airlines to shuttle over 2,500 personnel on 75 weekly flights to and from their place of work – a change that would, in itself save millions of dollars a year.

On Tuesday 4 August 1992, the first Holloman based F-117A was lost in an accident. Capt John В Mills of the 416th FS, was forced to eject from Aircraft ’801 (not ’810 or ’802 as reported elsewhere), after it entered an uncom­manded roll and caught fire. The crash occurred just eight miles northwest of Holloman; a crash investigation identified the cause as an improperly reinstalled bleed air duct, which led to a hydraulic line malfunction to flight controls and a fire.

Above Col Greg ‘Beast’ Feest was the first pilot to ever drop a weapon in anger from an F-117. This occurred during Operation Just Cause over Panama. In addition he also released the first bomb to mark the beginning of Operation Desert Storm; by a strange twist of fate, he happened to be flying the same aircraft on both occasions, F-117A. ‘816. (Col Greg Feest)

Below left Gen Norman Schwarzkopf receives a briefing from Lt Col Ralph Getchell on some of the F-117’s intricacies. (USAF)

Below Having been retired from flight test on 11 April 1985, Aircraft ‘780, the F-l I7A prototype, became a gate-guard during a ceremony at Nellis AFB on 16 May 1992. (USAF)

The move to Holloman also signalled a steady integra­tion of the F-117A into theatre operational planning, enabling it to become a true ‘force multiplier’, something impossible to achieve during its years in the black. Accordingly, the 416th participated in Exercise Team Spirit, a short deployment to South Korea. And in June 1993, eight F-117As from the 415th deployed briefly to Gilze-Rijen, in the Netherlands, for Exercise Central Enterprise.

The 49th lost its second F-117A from Holloman, (the fifth to date) on 10 May 1995, at 22:25 hours. Aircraft ’822 was being flown by Capt Ken Levens of the 9th Fighter Squadron on a night training flight when contact was lost. The aircraft crashed on Red Mesa, at the Zuri Indian Reservation; the pilot hadn’t attempted to eject prior to the crash, and ’822 gouged out a 20-foot deep crater upon impact. Having received his bandit number (Bandit 461), on 16 December 1994, Capt Levens had accumulated just 70 hours on the aircraft prior to the incident. An accident investigation team established that there were no signs of mechanical or electrical failure prior to impact and that pilot disorientation seemed, yet again, to be the most likely cause of the tragedy.

The sixth accidental loss of an F-117A occurred publicly and in spectacular fashion. On 14 September 1997, Maj Bryan Knight, an instructor with the 7th FS, flying Aircraft ’793, was coming to the end of his expert­ly choreographed display routine during an airshow at Chesapeake Bay, near Baltimore, Md.. Flying at 380kts and at a height of between 600 and 700 ft, he entered a 15 degree climb when the left outboard clevon made at least four rapid oscillations, causing a 2.5ft section of the inboard elevon to become detached. The aircraft then
rolled rapidly left (90 degrees within 0.8 seconds) and pitched sharply up into a high angle of attack. Bryan ejected safely and during the subsequent accident investi­gation it was determined that the incident had occurred because four Hi-Lok fasteners used to secure the elevon hydraulic actuator to a spanwisc, ‘Brooklyn Bridge’ 1- beam, had not been re-installed, following maintenance conducted at Holloman in January 1996.


Progress came at a heavy price. The first SR-71 loss occurred on 25 January 1966, when Bill Weaver and his test engineer Jim /.waver took off from Edwards in SR – 71 A ‘952. After in-flight refuelling, ‘Dutch 64’ climbed back to cruising altitude. While in a 15-degree right back turn, manually controlling the right forward bypass doors at Mach 3.17 and between 77-78,000ft, Weaver experi­
enced a right inlet unstart. Bank angle immediately increased from 35 to 60 degrees and the aircraft entered a pitch-up that exceeded the restorative authority of the flight controls and SAS. The aircraft disintegrated, but miraculously Weaver survived; unfortunately Jim Zwayer was killed in the incident.

The SR-71 prototype was written off on 10 January 1967, during an anti-skid brake system evaluation at Edwards AFB, the Lockheed test pilot Art Peterson escaped with a cracked disc in his back. Three months later, on 13 April, Beale lost SR-71A ‘966 flown by Capts Earle Boone and RSO Butch Sheffield follow ing a stall and pitch-up. Both men safely ejected as ‘966 made its

Above Once on the boom, the pilot formates with the tanker, whilst the boom operator maintains contact and the tanker’s co-pilot supervises the fuel off-load. (Paul Crickmore)

Top SR-7ls refuelled from both КС-135 and КС-10 Tankers.

(Lockheed Martin)

Above right Once disconnected from the boom, the SR-71 side­slips clear of the tanker, engages both ‘burners’ and accelerates away. (Paul Crickmore)

grave not far from that of Bill Weaver’s aircraft, in Northern New Mexico.

On the night of 25 October 1967, Maj Roy St Martin and Capt John Carnochan were living a night sortie in aircraft ‘965. As Roy cased the aircraft into the descent profile over Nevada, the gyro-stabilised reference platform for the ANS drifted without a failure warning. With no visual horizon for external reference, the aircraft rolled over, the nose fell far below a safe descent angle and plunged through 60,000ft. Sensing something was wrong, Roy glanced at the standby artificial horizon and was alarmed to sec it indicate a ‘screaming dive and roll-over toward inverted flight’. He attempted a ‘recovery from



LossesLossesAbove Depending upon time and fuel remaining, a returning aircraft might shoot a few approaches before recovery. Here ex-Thunderbirds pilot Maj Jim Jiggens demonstrates the more nimble side of 17960. (Paul Crickmore)

unusual positions manoeuvre’, and managed to roll the wings level, hut roaring through 40,000ft, well above the speed from which level flight could be achieved, both men ejected. The RSO went first, and as Roy ejected he heard the warning horn that signalled that the aircraft had descended below 10,000ft! Aircraft 965 plunged into the ground near Lovelock, Nevada like a meteorite. Luckily both men survived without permanent injuries and following an accident board of investigation several instrumentation changes were implemented on the fleet, together with an amended training program containing less night flying until crews had accumulated more daytime experience in the SR-71.

As mentioned earlier, with both the Air Force and Agency operating similar aircraft in the same role, a Bureau of the Budget (BoB) memo, dated November 1965, questioned such a requirement. Since the SR-71 was not scheduled to become operational until September 1968, the SECDEF rightly declined to consider any cut­backs. In July 1966, BoB officials proposed that a tri-agency study be set up again to establish ways of reducing the cost of both programs. After the study was completed, a meeting was convened on 12 December 1966 and a vote taken on available options. Three out of four votes cast were in favour of the recommendation 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’. The BoB memorandum was transmitted to President Johnson on 16 December, despite protestations from the CIA’s Richard I lelms, who was the sole dissenting voice in the t ote. Twelve days later, Johnson accepted the BoB’s recom­mendations and directed that the Oxcart programme be terminated by 1 January 1968. In the event, the Oxcart run-down lagged, but the original decision to terminate

Middle and above Normal approach speed (dependent upon weight, ambient air temperature etc) is 175 kts with ten degrees of nose up pitch. Final flare further increases alpha – nose up pitch and speed reduces to 155 kts for touch down. A strong ground effect, produced by the delta wing, cushions landings. (Paul Crickmore)

the program was reaffirmed on 16 May 1968 and the first Kadena-based A-12 began its flight back to the States on 7 June.

Flight Test

25 March 1991 saw the completion of a move for F-117 flight test operations from Area 51 to Palmdale. Activity from the new base continued at a brisk pace with Aircraft ’831, flown by Lt Col Chris Seat, completing Det. S’s first flight from Palmdale the day before. However, the first Senior Trend test sortie from Palmdale was a weapons evaluations flight, flown in Aircraft ’784 by Jim Thomas on 23 April 1992.

On the 23 October 1991, a low observability communi­cations study was authorised to identify methods of maintaining communications with an F-117 once it had ‘stealthed-up’ and retracted all its antennas. The study was completed in February 1992, and on 31 August that same year, Jim Thomas flew Aircraft ’783 on its first low observability antenna evaluation sortie. The test program lasted for two months, during which rime the ‘stealthy antenna’, located on the aircraft’s underside, was thoroughly evaluated. Following submission of a final report on 13 November 1992, the go-ahead for full scale development of the system was received on 12 May 1993; work commenced four months later, on 16 September, to upgrade the fleet.

Above left On 8 July 1992, Tonopah was deactivated and the 37th moved its F-l 17s to Holloman AFB, New Mexico. (USAF)

Above With the move from Tonopah to Holloman, came a redesignation and the 37th FW became the 49th FW. Aircraft ‘816 of the 7th FS is seen overflying the F-117 barns at Holloman. (USAF)

Below Members of the 9th FS, together with their 18 F-l 17s, form-up behind their boss at that time, Lt Col Greg Feest. (Col Greg Feest)

On 10 October 1994, The Ring Laser Gyro Navigation Improvement Program (RNIP), commenced. Initially designed to evaluate the proposed replacement of SPN – GEANS by the Honeywell H-423 Ring Laser Gyro, the program was subsequently broadened (based on earlier successes achieved by the low observability communica­tion antenna program), to include the addition of a Global Positioning System (GPS). A ‘dry bay’ was creat­ed, by forming a recess in the fuselage fuel tank, on the upper surface of Aircraft ‘784. Into this was located a stealthy antenna, capable of receiving the relevant satellite generated data. The first RNIP flight occurred on 12 December 1994, and the enhanced accuracy was immedi­ately apparent. This improvement package was incorporated into the entire F-l 17 fleet. Other benefits offered by the antenna were also exploited, giving rise, in December 1997, to the IRRCA, or Integrated real-time information into the cockpit/Real-time information out of the cockpit, for Combat Aircraft flight test project. Now there’s an acronym to test your friends with! By 30 June 1998, the first phase of the program, "real-time informa­tion into the cockpit’ had been successfully demonstrated. Phase two, ‘real-time information out of the cockpit’ began in 1999.

At the heart of IRRCA is the integration of a real-time symmetric multiprocesser, facilitating 1.2 billion instruc­tions per second. As the F-117A receives threat updates from satellite broadcasts, a moving map displays new threats and the processor automatically evaluates the situ­ation. Should analysis of the threat determine that the aircraft is in jeopardy, the processor re-plans the route and display’s the option on a new colour liquid crystal diode multi-function display. Decision criteria used in the

Above Another mission begins as this extraordinary geometric study prepares to taxi from its barn. (USAF)

Right An AT-38B of the 7th FS on business at Palmdale. Note the three F-117s on the tail-band. (Paul Crickmore)

Below right F-l 17 test pilot Jim ‘JB’ Brown of the 410th Flight Test Squadron, based at Palmdale, readies 784 for another IRRCA test flight. (Paul Crickmore)

proposed re-route includes threat exposure, flying time and landing fuel. The pilot can then accept or reject the proposed option. In addition to mission information, text and images also update the pilot on key events and weather. Evaluations carried out by the 410 Test Squadron at Palmdale indicate that the F-117A is capable of reacting to mission updates or target changes and pop­up threats while still remaining in a stealth configuration.

In early July 1998, Jim ‘JB’ Brown, lead IRRCA test pilot, flew a simulated combat mission in the dedicated testbed, aircraft ’784. During the course of the sortie, a geostationary satellite transmitted a series of encrypted messages to the aircraft via its low-observable communi­cations antenna. These messages included threat updates, mission updates, text information and alternative target imagery. Mission changes provided information for the real-time symmetric multi-processor to re-plan the mission to an alternative target. This was followed by a text message and photos of the alternative target, which enabled ‘JB’ to verify the processor’s planning results and study target details prior to acquisition and attack.

Other Evaluations

Over the years other parties have evaluated the F-117A’s capabilities. The first of these being the United States Navy. Two Navy pilots flew the aircraft on eight occa­sions, during each flight they were chased by an instructor pilot in a T-38. Details of their flight log show that this was a serious evaluation:










1.3 hours





1.4 hours





1.6 hours





1.6 hours





1.3 hours





1.3 hours





1.5 hours





1.4 hours


11.4 hours

In conclusion of the trials, Lt Cmdr Kenny Linn recalls: “We conducted a thorough performance review, and eval­uated the F-117A for suitability in the carrier environment. Unremarkably, it was not suitable at that time for CV use, although it had quite nice handling characteristics in the pattern, landing speeds were too high, and the sink rate limitations were too low. The F – 117A had not been built as a CV aircraft, and was not going to turn into one overnight!”

Following the collapse of European Communism, few countries were better placed to successfully complete the transition into a free market economy and democracy than Yugoslavia. However, nationalism, spurred on by the Milosevic regime have conspired to drag the region into ‘a new dark age’. The planning and implementation by

Serbia of ‘Operation Horeshoe’ – the systematic ‘ethnic cleansing – deportation and genocide – of the Kosovar Albanians, haas once again taken ships and aircraft of NATO to war. At approximately 20:38 (local) on Saturday, 27 March 1999, F-117A, ‘806, of the 8th FS, flown by Major Dale Zclco, crashed forty miles from Belgrade whilst participating in Operation Allied Force. Although speculation surrounding the loss of this aircraft is rife, nothing has been officially released at the time of writing, other than the fact that Zelco was safely extract­ed from the area bv a combat rescue team.

below Stealth technology is not something reserved solely for military aircraft: witness the Skunk Work’s Sea Shadow.

(Lockheed Martin) ,

Above Years of stealth technology were designed into the low visibility of the Lockheed F-22 Raptor. Without black world, no F-22, or at least, many more years of R&D. (Lockheed Martin)