Our guest speaker for our December 5, 2019 meeting was Frank Murray who spoke for almost two hours on his experiences as a Lockheed A-12 pilot for the CIA.
If you are not familiar with the A-12 it may be because only 13 were built and their main base was in Area 51 with a detachment based at Kadena, Okinawa.
The A-12 looks similar to the more well known Lockheed SR-71 which Frank referred to as the ‘Family Sedan” model.
The A-12 was the first of the operational Blackbirds, designed by Kelly Johnson in Lockheed’s famed Skunk Works. It is a single-seat flying camera platform with primarily manually-controlled systems – especially those controlling the engine and air inlet functions.
Frank said that his ‘normal’ missions over ‘unfriendly’ territories would involve a flight through the area at roughly 85,000 feet and at mach 3.2 while taking photos of a swath about 130 NM wide with an image resolution of around 2′. The camera on the A-12 was fitted with a continuous roll of film that was 5000′ long enabling an image covering 2500 NM.
Frank spoke about the aircraft and his experiences and then answered audience questions for almost another hour. It was an exceptionally interesting and educational evening.
Frank has written two books on his experiences that are available on Amazon (book images are links to the Amazon page).
Oxcart Convoy describes the enormous project of moving the A-12s from their manufacturing location in Burbank, CA to Area 51.
The other book Once Upon a Time in Area 51 is a declassified account of little known incidents and activities occurring during CIA Project Oxcart at Area 51.
There is also a book on the Lockheed A-12 printed by the Government Printing Office titled Archangel. Unfortunately, a search of the GPO site did not turn up anything on this book, even using the ISBN number.
I did eventually find this book available as a free PDF download from the CIA website. Not sure if I’ll ever be able to get through airport security again after downloading it, though.