I’ve always been a sucker for stories about and images of spy planes. The U-2 and more particularly the SR-71 Blackbird had a Jetsons, the-future-as-seen-from-the-1950s look that seems, somehow, classic to me. And National Geographic has an exclusive set of pictures of the 1963 crash of a prototype of a successor to the U-2 known as the A-12. It’s an early attempt at stealth technology that looks like it was designed in Hollywood for a sci-fi movie. Here’s the run-down:
Nearly undetectable to radar, the A-12 could fly at 2,200 miles an hour (3,540 kilometers an hour)—fast enough to cross the continental U.S. in 70 minutes. From 90,000 feet (27,400 meters), the plane’s cameras could capture foot-long (0.3-meter-long) objects on the ground below.
But there’s another reason I’m linking to this annotated slideshow. I’ll let National Geographic explain: “During the 1950s and ’60s, Area 51’s top-secret OXCART program developed the A-12 as the successor to the U-2 spy plane.” Area 51. Top-secret spy plane. How could I resist? Particularly when I know the search engines are going to feed hordes of UFO-niks to this blog, where they will doubtless find yet more evidence of the government’s fiendishly clever attempts to cover up what really happened at Area 51.