RR Patch Roadrunner Heading U2_SR

PROJECT OXCART/OPERATION BLACKSHIELD

Forty-five years ago in a CIA project so important and secret that their identities were not publicly revealed by the CIA until the past year, a group of young Air Force pilots volunteered to be ?sheepdipped? from the Air Force to the Central Intelligence Agency to fly an unidentified aircraft at an undisclosed venue to replace the U-2 conducting reconnaissance flights over the denied territories of our Cold War enemies. These pilots were among a total of only 16 surviving a secret and highly selective vetting of the top pilots from within our nation?s armed forces. For years they used puesno names and resided Monday through Friday at a secret, remote site only 85 miles from their families, yet they were unable to tell even their families where they worked or what they were doing. Much of what they did will never be told in the interest of national security. These were the pilots of the CIA?s Project OXCART and Operation BLACK SHIELD. These are the pilots who pioneered sustained flight in excess of Mach 3 at altitudes exceeding 90,000 feet. These are the pilots who flew and wrote the flight manuals for a new class of high speed aircraft hand built from materials invented as needed, a plane that flew so hot that it required wiring, sealants, fuels and lubricants yet to be invented.


During the flight phases of Project OXCART, 2,850 flights were completed for a total of 4,800 flight hours. There were 1,032 flights which reached or exceeded speeds of Mach 3.0 for a total of 675 flight hours at or above Mach 3.0. The maximum speed achieved was Mach 3.29. The maximum altitude achieved was 90,000. The longest single flight was 7:40 hours. On another flight, 3:50 hours were spent at or above Mach 3.0. The longest single sustained flight time at or above Mach 3.2 was 1:14 hours. During the last three years of OXCART, Mach 3.0 flights were made on a routine daily basis. The most advanced aircraft of the 20th century became an anachronism before it was ever used operationally.


Twenty-nine operational missions were flown in Operation Black Shield. Twenty were flown over North Vietnam, two were primarily targeted against Cambodia, and three were over North Korea. The cameras operated satisfactorily, and good to excellent imagery was obtained. Enemy radar tracking was reported on all but two missions, ranging from brief reflections of the A-12?s presence to extended and accurate tracking. Surface to air missiles were launched at the A-12 on three missions, without success.


Five A-12s were lost due to accidents. Two A-12 pilots were killed, Walter Ray at Groom Lake and Jack Weeks at Kadena. Two chase plane pilots were lost, Lt. Col. Jim Simon at Groom Lake and Lt. Col. Welton King at Kadena. Jack Weeks piloting the fifth accident in the OXCART program was lost on 4 June 1968 when an aircraft disappeared without a trace east of the Philippines while on a routine functional check flight following an engine change. Cause of the accident was not determined, although catastrophic engine failure was possible based on analysis of malfunction sensing signals received immediately preceding the aircraft?s disappearance. An intensive sea and air search failed to locate the pilot, aircraft or any evidence of the accident. The other two A-12s left OKINAWA ON 8 and 19 June 1968. OXCART facilities at Kadena were turned over to the USAF for use by the SR-71 detachment. Frank Murray made the final flight of an A-12 in Article 131 on 21 June 1968 from Groom Lake to the storage at Palmdale. On June 1968 OXCART closed shop with the BLACK SHIELD pilots being awarded the CIA Intelligence Star for Valor.

THE OPERATION BLACK SHIELD MISSIONS

Frank Murray

BX6727 131 6 October 1967 Mission was flown at Mach 3.19 and 81,000 feet for a duration of 2:20 hours. Imagery quality was good. Mission was prematurely terminated due to a faulty oil pressure indicator.


BX6729 129 18 October 1967 Mission was flown at Mach (classified) and 81,000 feet for a duration of 4:01 hours. Imagery quality was good.


BX6733 127 29 October 1967 Mission was flown at Mach (classified) and 82,000 feet for a duration of 3:56 hours. Imagery quality was good.


BX6853 127 19 February 1968 North Korea Mission was flown at Mach 3.20 and 83,500 feet for a duration of 3:39 hours. Imagery quality was good.

Ken Collins

BX6708 127 13 July 1967 Mission was flown at Mach 3.15 and 82,100 feet for a duration of 3:40 hours. Imagery quality was good.


BX6710 129 20 July 1967 Mission was flown at Mach 3.16 and 82,450 feet for a duration of 4:55 hours. Imagery quality was good despite haze problem.


BX6723 131 17 September 1967 Mission was flown at Mach 3.16 and 81,000 feet for a duration of 4:00 hours. Imagery quality was excellent.Mission BX5723


BX6725 127 4 October 1967 Mission was flown at Mach 3.14 and 81,000 feet for a duration of 4:09 hours. Imagery quality was excellent. Mission BX5725


BX6728 131 15 October 1967 Mission was flown at Mach 3.19 and 81,000 feet for a duration of 3:41 hours. Imagery quality was good. Mission BX5728


BX6851 127 16 February 1968 Mission was flown at Mach 3.20 and 85,600 feet for a duration of 3:54 hours. Imagery quality was good (considerable cloud coverage).

Jack Layton

BX6705 129 20 June 1967 Mission was flown at Mach 3.17 and 82,000 feet for a duration of 4:58 hours. Imagery quality was excellent. Mission BX6705


BX6718 127 31 August 1967 Mission was flown at Mach 3.20 and 81,000 feet for a duration of 5:12 hours. Imagery quality was good until camera malfunctioned.


BX6738 131 10 December 1967 Cambodia & Laos Mission was flown at Mach 3.17 and 81,000 feet for a duration of 3:51 hours. Imagery quality was good.


BX6740 131 16 December 1967 Mission was flown at Mach 3.20 and 86,200 feet for a duration of 3:56 hours. Imagery quality was good. Mission BX5740


BX6842 127 4 January 1968 Mission was flown at Mach 3.20 and 85,100 feet for a duration of 3:57 hours. Imagery quality was good.


BX6858 127 6 May 1968 North Korea Mission was flown at Mach 3.20 and 84,700 feet for a duration of 3:30 hours. Imagery quality was fair due to haze and scattered clouds...

Dennis Sullivan

BX6709 131 19 July 1967 Mission was flown at Mach 3.17 and 82,000 feet for a duration of 4:58 hours. Imagery quality was excellent.


BX6732 131 28 October 1967 Mission was flown at Mach 3.15 and 83,500 feet for a duration of 3:49 hours. Imagery quality was good. Mission BX5732


BX6734 129 30 October 1967 Mission was flown at Mach 3.20 and 85,000 feet for a duration of 3:44 hours. Imagery quality was good.

Jack Weeks

BSX003 131 10 June 1967 Mission was flown at Mach 3.17 and 82,000 feet for a duration of 4:58 hours. Imagery quality was excellent. Mission BSX-003


BX6706 129 30 June 1967 Mission was flown at Mach 3.17 and 82,000 feet for a duration of 4:58 hours. Imagery quality was excellent.


BX6722 129 16 September 1967 Mission was flown at Mach 3.15 and 80,000 feet for a duration of 4:01 hours. Imagery quality was good.


BX6843 131 5 January 1968 Mission was flown at Mach (classified) and 86,000 feet for a duration of 4:09 hours. Imagery quality was satisfactory (haze and cloud shadow).


BX6847 131 26 January 1968 North Korea Mission was flown at Mach 3.20 and 83,500 feet for a duration of 4:00 hours. Imagery quality was good. Mission BX6847

Mele Vojvodich

BSX001 131 31 May 1967 Mission was flown at Mach 3.2 and 80,000 feet for a duration of 3:55 hours. Imagery quality was good to excellent. Mission BSX-001


BX6716 131 21 August 1967 Mission was flown at Mach 3.17 and 82,000 feet for a duration of 4:58 hours. Imagery quality was excellent.


BX6737 131 8 December 1967 Cambodia & Laos Mission was flown at Mach 3.20 and 82,500 feet for a duration of 3:59 hours. Imagery quality was excellent.


BX6739 127 15 December 1967 Mission was flown at Mach 3.20 and 86,000 feet for a duration of 4:09 hours. Imagery quality was good.


BX6856 127 8 March 1968 Mission was flown at Mach 3.20 and 85,500 feet for a duration of 4:01 hours. Imagery quality was good.




back         Home         Email
See a broken link or error, have a story or photo to add - please email the webmaster  - -  Page last modified 04/14/2015