Innovations Towards Invisibility

The CIA’s OXCART Project and A-12 Reconnaissance Aircraft

September 24, 2010 | 7:30pm
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
Free, Tickets Required

Until 2007, the men who built and flew the “OXCART” A-12, a mysterious high-speed, high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft, were known only as “secret heroes of the Cold War.” Now, just two and a half years after their identities have been declassified, you can hear some of these secret heroes discuss the development, operations, and legacy of the Central Intelligence Agency’s top secret Cold War project, OXCART.

Conceived in the mid 1950s at the height of the Cold War, OXCART was the CIA’s effort to build a reconnaissance aircraft that could monitor Soviet weapon deployments while avoiding radar and surface-to-air missiles. Years of innovative engineering and courageous test flights produced the Lockheed A-12: an airplane that could fly three times the speed of sound, reach an altitude of 90,000 feet, and remain nearly invisible to radar. Although the A-12 flew operational missions for just one year, it provided an essential foundation for future reconnaissance aircraft. Pilots and engineers who developed the A-12 as part of Lockheed’s covert “Skunk Works” division will recall the challenges, guesswork, and outright harrowing ride of building and flying the fastest, highest-flying airplane that had ever been built.