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    The Lockheed YF-12: Supersonic Guardian of the Skies and Ancestor of the Iconic SR-71

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    The Lockheed YF-12, born in the secretive and innovative 1960s, was developed as a high-altitude, Mach 3 interceptor to defend against the risk of supersonic bombers.

    Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: P-40 Warhawk, SR-71 Blackbird, Naval Aircraft Factory N3N seaplane, Space Shuttle Enterprise” by Chris Devers is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    This formidable aircraft, which first took flight in August 1963, not only showcased the pinnacle of aviation technology of its time but also set the stage for its more famous successor, the SR-71 Blackbird.

    Developed from the clandestine A-12 reconnaissance platform by Lockheed’s Skunk Works under the watchful eye of Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, the YF-12A represented an evolution in strategic air defense.

    The YF-12A was distinct in its modification to accommodate the Hughes AN/ASG-18 fire-control radar and the addition of a second cockpit for a fire control officer to manage its advanced missile system.

    With its sleek, black silhouette, the YF-12A could unleash three Hughes AIM-47A missiles.

    YF-12s” by aeroman3 is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    The first of three YF-12s flew in August 1963. In May 1965, the first and third YF-12s set several records, including a speed record of 2,070.101 mph and an altitude record of 80,257.65 feet.

    For their speed record flight, Col. Robert L. “Fox” Stephens (pilot) and Lt. Col. Daniel Andre (fire control officer) received the 1965 Thompson Trophy.

    The last one was launched from the YF-12 at Mach 3.2 at an altitude of 74,000 ft (22,677 m) to a JQB-47E target drone 500 ft (152 m) off the ground.

    YF-12A 60-6935” by End User is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    One of the Air Force test pilots, Jim Irwin, would go on to become a NASA astronaut and walk on the Moon.

    Lockheed YF-12A” by rocbolt is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    YF-12A #60-06935 is the only surviving YF-12A; it was recalled from storage in 1969 for a joint USAF/NASA investigation of supersonic cruise technology, and then flown to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio on 17 November 1979.

    related images you might be interested.

    Lockheed YF-12 Blackbird” by Clemens Vasters is licensed under CC BY 2.0
    Lockheed SR-71 3/4 front view, the first SR-71A-LO delivered (S/N 61-7950). (U.S. Air Force photo)

    Relevant articles:
    Lockheed YF-12A, National Museum of the USAF (.mil)
    Lockheed YF-12, Military Wiki | Fandom
    12 Interceptor Story, Roadrunners Internationale, Dec 27, 2021

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