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A-12 first flew 53 years ago


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Great narrated video for the pilots and Cold War historians on the forum. Groom lake, Area 51, USAF, CIA and the Burbank Skunk works all come to life in what was probably a very top secret film. All this going on while atmospheric nuclear bomb testing was going on nearby. Notice how the first flight almost resulted in a crash of what eventually became the SR-71.

http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/the-sr-71-blackbirds-predecessor-first-flew-53-years-ag-1700261411/+nicoleconlan

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Very cool...saw my first SR in 1972 when one was forced to land at our base in northern Thailand (555th Fighters and big Air America operation). Pilot created quite a stir in his space suit. I've been to several first flights on various programs, talk about a gut check...

 

Thanks for the video link!

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Guest Kakugo

Thanks a lot for the footage. This reminds me of when Khrushcev announced to the world the USSR was going to detonate a 100Mt bomb over Novaya Zemlya.

The USAF had a KC135A quickly modified by GD to monitor the test under the Speed Light codename. Soviet air defenses were ordered to leave the aircraft alone because the Kremlin wanted everybody to know what they were capable of.

 

The KC135 came back home not only loaded with data, but with its paint scorched brown. Data analysis confirmed the test had a 58Mt yield, and that was fortunate because had it been anywhere near what Khrushchev had boasted it would have fried not only the KC135 but also the various aircraft the Soviets had in the air to monitor their test, including the Tu-95 which dropped the bomb.

 

Speaking of Habu itself, what always struck me is how Kelly Johnson, Ben Rich and their people had to literally reinvent the wheel to make it happen. To call the engineering obstacles they had to surmount mind boggling would be a mild statement.

Everything in that aircraft was probably 30 years ahead of its time and what wasn't had to be designed from scratch to cope with the incredibly harsh environment Habu had to operate in.

Just unbelievable.

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I heard that one of the biggest problems was the titanium. When they were building the planes, some of the metal was almost worthless. They eventually traced the problem back to the water they were using during the manufacture.

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Thanks a lot for the footage. This reminds me of when Khrushcev announced to the world the USSR was going to detonate a 100Mt bomb over Novaya Zemlya.

The USAF had a KC135A quickly modified by GD to monitor the test under the Speed Light codename. Soviet air defenses were ordered to leave the aircraft alone because the Kremlin wanted everybody to know what they were capable of.

 

The KC135 came back home not only loaded with data, but with its paint scorched brown. Data analysis confirmed the test had a 58Mt yield, and that was fortunate because had it been anywhere near what Khrushchev had boasted it would have fried not only the KC135 but also the various aircraft the Soviets had in the air to monitor their test, including the Tu-95 which dropped the bomb.

 

Speaking of Habu itself, what always struck me is how Kelly Johnson, Ben Rich and their people had to literally reinvent the wheel to make it happen. To call the engineering obstacles they had to surmount mind boggling would be a mild statement.

Everything in that aircraft was probably 30 years ahead of its time and what wasn't had to be designed from scratch to cope with the incredibly harsh environment Habu had to operate in.

Just unbelievable.

30 years ahead of it's time reminds me the plane was built by engineers using slide rules. Imagine the immense engineering complexity that would have been so much easier with todays computers. I don't think the engineers had a hand held calculator to use. Building that with long hand calculations, incredible!

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beemerboy

The A12 was supposed to be the fighter variant of the SR71 and its outer skin was polished, not the blackend finish of its recon version.

 

Think about it for a moment; a fighter version of a plane that can flat out haul a$$.

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Guest Kakugo
I heard that one of the biggest problems was the titanium. When they were building the planes, some of the metal was almost worthless. They eventually traced the problem back to the water they were using during the manufacture.

 

Indeed, fluorine contamination if I remember my Inorganic Chemistry course.

 

Regarding those sliding rulers. I had one but never learned to use it properly. I jumped at a very tender age to a used Apple II.

Johnson is known to have used the same sliding ruler throughout his whole career... I hope Lockheed put that thing in a museum because it was made them in one of the biggest players in aerospace! :grin:

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Very cool...saw my first SR in 1972 when one was forced to land at our base in northern Thailand (555th Fighters and big Air America operation).

 

Udorn?

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Guest Kakugo
The A12 was supposed to be the fighter variant of the SR71 and its outer skin was polished, not the blackend finish of its recon version.

 

Think about it for a moment; a fighter version of a plane that can flat out haul a$$.

 

As much as I admire Johnson and Rich, both men were born salesmen.

If I remember correctly they pitched the YF12 to the USAF during one of the periodic "red bomber scares" of the Cold War. This one center around a Tupolev supersonic bomber which was being developed on the cheap and, probably, as nothing more as a distraction for American intelligence as the Soviets were completely focused on missiles by the time and felt the Tu95 was all the bomber they needed. And could afford. ;)

In short Lockheed pitched an aircraft to counter a threat that didn't exist... and they knew it well. The Pentagon played along a bit, probably because they were in awe of the reconnaisance version, but later they wisely decided to scrap the project.

 

Very hot fighter aircraft are usually a recipe for troubles.

To stay at Burbank, the F104 was nicknamed "Flying Coffin" among NATO air forces.

Make no bone about it: the design was literally flawless for what it was supposed to do. But it also required capable hands to be flown, and only after through qualification.

The F104 was pressed in service as a multirole fighter (for which it hadn't been designed, something the USAF understood very well) and to make matters worse it was usually flown by very green pilots, often after insufficient qualification.

Accident rates were absolutely horrific. The Germans lost almost 300 Starfighters without firing a single shot in anger. A typical quip of the period was if you wanted an F104 all you had to do was buying a parcel of land and wait for one to crash into it.

 

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Danny caddyshack Noonan
Indeed, fluorine contamination if I remember my Inorganic Chemistry course.

 

Possibly, but I've thrown out more than my share of hardware due to Cl contamination. They are very similar. It causes stress corrosion cracking in Ti.

Now there is another set of testing that requires very high temperature tests to verify that joe-blow materials don't do the same.

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Guest Kakugo
Indeed, fluorine contamination if I remember my Inorganic Chemistry course.

 

Possibly, but I've thrown out more than my share of hardware due to Cl contamination. They are very similar. It causes stress corrosion cracking in Ti.

Now there is another set of testing that requires very high temperature tests to verify that joe-blow materials don't do the same.

 

I haven't studied this on over a decade but I dug out my much weathered and beloved copy of Chemistry of the Elements by Greenwood and Earnshaw and it clearly states titanium halides are easily formed by direct action of the halogens or some of their salts with the heated metal. It also says the formation of chloride and bromide is catalyzed by carbon... carbon, heated metal and halogen salts commonly contained in water. Looks like what you commonly find in most foundries. ;)

 

Regarding the Starfighter... Erich Hartmann, the legendary WWII ace, by then a colonel in the Luftwaffe, had tested the aircraft in the US and strongly opposed the purchase. His main criticism was the aircraft was completely unsuited to both the ground attack role and the large number of green pilots the Luftwaffe had in that period. He warned "Many young men will be killed in this machine".

He never became a general, but he retired with a clean conscience.

 

Lockheed paid millions in bribes to German, Dutch, Italian and Japanese politicians to push the Starfighter, often on air forces which didn't want it and didn't need it.

The main concern was these air forces would buy the F4, which was much better suited to Italian and Japanese needs, or the Mirage III, which the Israeli were using with murderous effects on Soviet-built aircraft.

 

Oh well, back to Habu now.

 

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