Wingspan: 16.9 meters (55 feet 7 inches)
Height: 5.6 meters
(18 feet 6 inches)
Length: 31.2 meters
(102 feet 3 inches)
Speed: Mach 2.0, twice
the speed of sound
Altitude: 18,000 meters
Takeoff distance, maximum weight:
Takeoff weight: 53,000
kg (117,000 pounds)
Landing weight: 23,600
kg (52,000 pounds)
Engines: 2 Pratt and
Whitney J-75s, each rated at 17,000 pounds of thrust
First flight: January
Number of flights: 614
Hours of flight: 1,076
hours flying time
A-12 trainer in flight
Spy planes need to collect information,
but they also need to survive flying through unfriendly
areas. That means being hard to spot on radar, cruising
high up out of reach, and flying fast enough to outrun
anything in pursuit. The A-12 met all these challenges
better than any plane had before.
Skunk Works, a special classified projects group at
the Lockheed Aircraft Company, made huge advances in
aircraft technology to build the A-12. Since the A-12
was the first titanium aircraft, the project team discovered
a lot about how to work with this challenging metal.
The A-12 team developed new methods so fuels and oil
could stand up to the extreme heat in the plane’s
engine. They also tested new ways to make aircraft
less visible to radar.
photo, taken by an A-12, shows the USS Pueblo
in Wonsan Harbor
the late 1960s, A-12s flew 29 spy missions over North
Vietnam and North Korea as part of Operation Black
Shield. In North Vietnam, the planes looked for missile
sites. They flew so fast that it took just over 12
minutes to fly the nearly 500 miles over North Vietnam,
moving at three times the speed of sound (Mach 3) at
altitudes between 85,000 and 90,000 feet.Missions over
North Korea were extremely sensitive. The first happened
a few days after a U.S. spy ship, the USS Pueblo, was
captured in January 1968. The missions were designed
to see if North Korea was planning a major attack on
Science Center's A-12
aircraft on display is the only A-12 trainer ever built.
It flew more flights and spent more hours in the air
than any other A-12, by far. The trainer has two cockpits:
one for an instructor and one for a pilot in training.
Black paint on the plane’s nose kept reflected
sunlight from blinding the pilots.
Click here to
see step by step photos of the A-12 installation process
at the Science Center.
This site has technical information and photographs provided
by the people
who worked at the CIA, Air Force, Lockheed and other
built and flew the A-12.
Museum: A-12 Blackbird
This page offers a schematic drawing of the A-12, and tells of a Blackbird on
display on an aircraft carrier.
Online: A-12 Blackbird
Check this page for a timeline of A-12 events, and find
out the relationship between the A-12 and another spy
plane, the SR-71. Follow the links to an A-12 quiz, too!
Here you'll find behind-the-scenes information about
the Blackbird, as well as technical illustrations,
crew lists and more.