Even as the U-2 was making its first operational flights in the latter half of the 1950s, President Eisenhower was concerned that it was vulnerable to detection and attack. He directed aviation firms to develop methods of camouflaging aircraft from radar detection, the first steps into the sheaf of technologies popularly known today as 'stealth'. Given the code-name “Oxcart” by the CIA, Lockheed's A-12 was the world's first practical Stealth aircraft to fly.
Not being content for his creation to simply hide from enemy radars, Kelly Johnson pushed for high speed as well, correctly reasoning that the aircraft should be able to run when it could no longer hide. No A-12 was ever shot down, despite being attacked multiple times during its operational flights.
64 pages, softcover. This book is smaller than the usual run of Osprey's profile books. The photos provide a glimpse into the formerly highly secret early history of the Oxcart program. Paul Crickmore's text is accompanied by several spectacular profiles and illustrations by artist Adam Tooby.
The book is divided into two major sections. The first describes the background leading up to the formation of the Oxcart program, the development of the A-12 and the extraordinary technical achievements necessary for the aircraft to fly successfully.
The second section describes the A-12's surprisingly short operational life. Rather than being deployed against the Soviet Union or China, the CIA's Blackbirds found themselves on operations in North Vietnam. And then, after all the heartbreak and difficult work overcoming technical problems heretofore never even contemplated, Oxcart was shut down just as it was delivering its first successes. The US Government had decided that it could not afford to pay for both the CIA's and the USAF's Blackbird fleets. The A-12s were put into top-secret storage for the next 20 years.
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Highs: A glimpse into the secretive American Intelligence gathering process.Lows: The book is far too small to do any justice to the legacy of the Blackbird.Verdict: Anyone interested in the story of high speed flight will enjoy this book.
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