Every once in awhile you simply stop & marvel at some designs—I did exactly that on my recent trip to San Diego when coming face-to-face with this amazing piece of design & engineering called the A-12 Blackbird, the predecessor to the devastating Stealth Bomber.
The A-12’s design brief to the designers & engineers would’ve been unique if anyone got it dropped on their desks at work one morning:
Brief – TOP LEVEL CLASSIFIED!
Create an aircraft for stealth missions across the world, undetectable to enemy radar scans, which can fly as fast & as high as technology allows (as money is no issue, unlimited budget). Some key performance factors as per below:
- 100% stealth/cloaking mode is paramount
- If in case of unfriendly / enemy encounter, the vessel must be able to out-fly gun-fire as well as missiles fired at it with pure speed
- As an alternative mode of escape, fly as high into the stratosphere (orbit territory) to nullify the missiles fire at it
- The vessel must be manned by at least 1 pilot
- The vessel must be equipped to record & report back reconnaissance data from missions
In other words, build a speed devil & an elegant spy machine that can reach the past the skies and kiss the universe. My lord, what a project! The below is what became the end-result of the project:
A-12 was the only aircraft in the world that was air-breathing which was capable of sustained speed of excess of Mac 3 at altitudes above 85,000 feet. Its turbo-RAM jets were capable of 32,000 lbs of thrust each, 98% of the aircraft was made of titanium (the strongest & lightest metal on earth), and capable of carrying more than 84,000 lbs. of fuel. And yes, it had just 1 pilot to reduce excess weight.
For me the A-12 is by far the coolest aircraft than its successors (past 30 years of service for the US military) such as the SR-71 or modern stealth aircraft as they were designed for carrying bombs and are not as fast due to it. The A-12 was silent and a speed demon/spy. What is amazing is that it was constructed in the 1950s and was 28 years in secrecy before the world knew about its existence.
Although the dozen A-12 today is on display in museums across the nation, its true speed capabilities & altitude is the topic of many experts still as the fact still remains, CLASSIFIED.