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Blackbird stuff
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I have loved this airplane since I was in high school. This page is a compilation of everything I had and could find pictorially on it as of 2003. Some additions have been made since then due to subsequent releases of information by the CIA, who of course was the first customer back then, in the first edition of the publication "Archangel: CIA's Supersonic A-12 Reconnaissance Aircraft" by David Robarge - CIA Chief Historian, Government Printing Office (, Second Edition, January 2012 (ISBN: 978-1-929667-16-1). This plus perhaps more was then rolled into the paperback "Lockheed Blackbird Family: A-12, YF-12, D-21/M-21 & SR-71 Photo Scrapbook" by Tony Landis (2010).

Kelly Johnson's Skunkworks Rules...

Preliminary Design studies

the CL-400 (unknown variant), for the initial Project codenamed "Suntan"

(Very F-104 -ish, eh? No surprise that Kelly Johnson designed that aircraft as well.)

Clarence "Kelly" Johnson

Ben Rich


Arrow 1


Arrow 1


Archangel 1


Archangel 2


Archangel 4


Archangel 6 rev.9


Archangel 7 rev.3


Archangel 7 rev.3


Archangel 10


Archangel 10 rev.?


Archangel 11


Archangel 11 rev.A


Archangel 11 revs.?


Archangel 12


Archangel 12



wind tunnel development

one known remaining blackbird wind tunnel model

YF-12A configuration testing

testing a familiar config, lateral chines

testing a delta canard config blended with the lateral chines


A-12 (CIA project codenamed "Gusto", with initial designs codenamed "Arrow" and then "Archangel", and the Archangel 12 design's fielding codenamed "Oxcart"):

A-12 / SR-71: my kids = pilots?

initial engine testing, where the exhaust from one engine was used as the intake for another engine in test

A-12 in production

A-12 in production

A-12 in production

A-12 first flight article being secretly trucked in pieces to Groom Lake test range (Area 51)

(New bonus link: the whole move documented)

A-12 aerial refueling

A-12s on the ramp

A-12B (trainer)


mothballed A-12s



YF-12 (of the 18 A-12's built for the CIA, 3 of them were experimental interceptors designated  YF-12's):

YF-12A with pilot






two YF-12As



SR-71 'Blackbird' (Project codenamed "Senior Crown"):

SR-71 landing



SR-71s with pilots

SR-71 in production

SR-71 in production

SR-71 in production

SR-71 in production

SR-71s on the ramp

good frontal shot

after looking at this for many minutes, I think it's real

more cool shed vortices vapor trails

night ops

one of the few times this bird can be guilty of being too slow

gulping down JP-7 from a KC-135Q

replentishing the fuel tank inerting system

(liquid nitrogen)

we sneak up on one here

SR-71B (trainer)



TEB engine start

an eyebrow-melting engine start shot

supersonic shock diamonds



GTD-21, a.k.a. D-21  [38 built, 21 expended]  (Project codenamed "Tagboard", and the aircraft was originally designated as the "Q-12"):

misc. shots

D-21 drone w/my pilot son at the ramjet exhaust...


D-21 drone

nose, frontal

nose, side

...while another D-21 snuck up on me.

rear end

all smarts were to be ejected and recovered... this.

a gaggle of D-21s on the tarmac

Ben Rich's D-21 desktop model...


Some good text writeups on the D-21:





D-21A on the A-12  (Project codenamed "Senior Bowl")

The two modified A-12s were redesignated as M-21s, although in the 1980's these aircraft were originally referred to in some publications as M-12s.

D-21 mating to M-21

D-21 mating to M-21



M-21 w/D-21 drone, lining up for refueling from a KC-135Q

M-21 w/D-21 drone

M-21 w/D-21 drone

M-21 w/D-21 drone

M-21 w/D-21 drone

M-21 w/D-21 drone

M-21 w/D-21 drone

M-21 + D-21 at Seattle Museum of Flight today

prep for early test flights

prep for early test flights

damage from first M-21 launch attempt, March 5 1966


the disastrous 4th launch attempt on July 30 1966 (MPEG video, 16 MB)


(read event details here)

D-21B on the B-52H (Project codenamed "Senior Bowl")




mating special pylon to D-21

mating special pylon to D-21

mating special pylon to D-21


the booster to get the D-21 up to ramjet start speed (M=2.2)

Booster, another angle. It was a solid-fuel rocket with a length of 44' 4", a weight of 13,290 lbs, and a burn time of ~90 seconds.

mounting booster in vertical test firing stand

test firing







good view of the



dropped and falling clear!


sled firing!

D-21B flight profile


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This page was last updated on 01/18/15.