Separated At Birth? Archangels and Habus!

Posted by on June 17, 2008

I was surfing around the Internet today and came across some interesting stuff on two aircraft that if you didn’t know better, you would think are the same.

Ok, so look at this one:


Now, check this one out:


Yikes! Hard to tell the difference, huh? The top aircraft is the SR-71, while the bottom aircraft is the A-12. Two completely different aircraft……

So what’s going on?

By the late 1950’s the design limitations of the current U-2 “Angel” aircraft were becoming apparent. Although the ability to fly high had been an asset in the past, the current technology just wasn’t enough. Developed in conjunction with Lockheed, the A-12 “Archangel” was presented as a new design, to fly higher and faster than anything before. The project, nicknamed “OXCART” turned out an aircraft (18 in all) in the early to mid 1960’s that had impressive capabilities, including Mach 3+ capabilities as well as an operational ceiling of 90,000+ feet. Packed with cameras and gear, the aircraft proved quite an intelligence bundle. Says of the cameras on board:

“…The Perkin-Elmer (P-E) entry, known as the Type-1 camera, was a high-ground-resolution general stereo camera using an f/4.0 18-inch lens and 6.6-inch film. It produced pairs of photographs covering a swath 71 miles wide with an approximately 30-percent stereo overlap. The system had a 5,000-foot film supply and was able to resolve 140 lines per millimeter and provide a ground resolution of 12 inches…”

So, what about the SR-71?

Although similar in appearance to the A-12, the SR-71 was quite a difference aircraft. In actuality, the raw performance of the aircraft was LESS than that of the A-12, but the intelligence and other capabilities were better. This included an expanded camera capability as well as radar gear. From a physical standpoint, the outside differences were minor, hence the similar look to the airframes.

Ironically, the programs of the A-12 and the SR-71 were ultimately scavanged due to budgetary restraints and fears of duplication, rather than any performance shortcomings on the part of the aircraft. Other neat facts include operational missions in Vietnam, North Korea and perhaps parts unknown as well as some amazing facts such as the material used in the airframes (titanium) was mostly obtained from the Soviet Union and the specialized fuel used. I have yet to mention the layout and structure of the pilots areas in each of the aircraft. It’s amazing stuff! I’ve collected some great links below. Take a few minutes if you can to visit them and find out much more about these capable aircraft.

Have a great day!


Wikipedia: A-12

A-12 Background

SR-71 Online

CIA Resource: OXCART

NASA SR-71 Images

NASA A-12 Images


(1) NASA: Dryden Facility Photos: YF-12 Version

(2)NASA: Dryden Facility Photos: SR-71 Version


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