Today in Aviation History: First Flight of The Lockheed YF-12A Interceptor

Aircorps Art Dec 2019

On August 7, 1963, the first Lockheed YF-12A interceptor, sn/ 60-6934, took off from a top-secret air base at Groom Lake, Nevada, on its first flight. Lockheed test pilot James D. Eastham was at the controls, three YF-12A prototypes s were built. The YF-12 was developed as a high-altitude, Mach 3 interceptor to defend against supersonic bombers. Based on the A-12 reconnaissance aircraft, the YF-12A became the forerunner of the highly-sophisticated SR-71 strategic reconnaissance aircraft.

The interceptors were equipped with a very effective Hughes fire control system and armed with three Hughes AIM-47 Falcon air-to-air missiles. In 1965 the U.S. Air Force placed an order for 93 F-12B interceptors for the Air Defense Command, but Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara continually refused to release the funds which Congress had appropriated. Eventually, the contract was canceled.

Lockheed YF-12A 60-6934 at Groom Lake, Nevada. (Central Intelligence Agency)

During flight testing, a YF-12A launched a Falcon missile while flying at Mach 3.2 at 74,000 feet (22,555 meters). It successfully intercepted and destroyed a target drone flying at only 500 feet (152 meters).

On May 1, 1965, YF-12A 60-6936, flown by Colonel Robert L. Stephens and Lieutenant Colonel David Andre, set a world speed record of 2,070.101 miles per hour (3,331.505 kilometers per hour) and a sustained altitude record of 80,257.86 feet (22,677 meters).

Lockheed YF-12A 60-6934 in flight. (U.S. Air Force)

on August 14, 1966, the aircraft s/n 60-6934 was damaged beyond repair in a runway accident at Edwards Air Force Base. Part of the airplane was salvaged and used to construct the only SR-71C, 64-17981, a two-seat trainer. The third YF-12A, 60-6936, was destroyed when the crew ejected during an inflight fire near Edwards AFB on June 24, 1971. The only remaining YF-12A, 60-6935, is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. The aircraft on display — the second one built — was recalled from storage in 1969 for a joint USAF/NASA investigation of supersonic cruise technology. It was flown to the museum in 1979, and it is the only remaining YF-12A in existence (the first YF-12A was damaged beyond repair after a landing mishap, and the third YF-12A was destroyed after the crew ejected to escape an inflight fire).

1 Comment

  1. I knew Jim and for the record, he said the F1D4 Chase plane pilot was Lon Scholk shown in the first photo upper left.

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