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During the early years of the Cold War, the most effective way to gather strategic intelligence about the Soviet Union and its allies was manned overflight. Lockheed's U-2 was spectacularly successful in this role. Much to the concern of President Eisenhower, its shape meant that it could be tracked on Russian radars. Given the highly sensitive nature of such flights, the President insisted that every effort should be made to reduce to zero the U-2's radar cross section (RCS), thereby making the aircraft "invisible." When this was proven to be impossible, the stage was set for a U-2 replacement. Following a competition between Lockheed and Convair, the former was declared the winner and the result was the A-12. Designed to incorporate 'stealth' features before the term was even coined, the A-12 has to date proven to be the fastest, highest flying jet aircraft ever built, and is operated exclusively by the Central Intelligence Agency. This book will also cover a two-seat variation of the design built as an advanced interceptor - the YF-12. In addition, the D-21 drone programme, known as Tagboard will also be covered.
Even before the first operational flight of the legendary Lockheed U-2 spy plane, aircraft design genius Kelly Johnson began work with his team at the company's "Skunk Works" plant on the type's replacement. The result was the SR-71. First deployed on March 9, 1968, this tri-sonic 'hotrod' flew its first operational sortie over North Vietnam just 12 days later. On that debut mission, the Blackbird overflew surface-to-air missile sites with complete impunity, collecting the detailed intelligence that led directly to the end of the siege of Khe Sanh in the process. Thereafter, the SR-71 roamed freely over areas previously denied to the vulnerable U-2, capturing photographic, radar and electronic intelligence. This book examines the immense impact this revolutionary aircraft had, not only on North Vietnam (Vietnam War, 1955-1975) but during the Cold War (1946-1991) as a whole, gathering information about the Soviet nuclear submarine fleet based in Vladivostok as well as the port's defenses, monitoring the actions of North Korea and flying four 11-hour, non-stop sorties into the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq War in the late 1980s.
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