YF-12 Blackbird

The BlackbirdMilitary AircraftMuseumsImage GalleryGroom LakeLinks
YF-12A #06935 in flight. (Photo Courtesy of NASA Dryden)
YF-12A #06935 in flight. (NASA Photo)

The YF-12A is a concept aircraft for a mach 3+ bomber/interceptor that provided a strong deterrent against world aggressors. In order to protect North America, 93 production F-12Bs needed to be built. However, the program was cancelled in the mid-1960s for budgetary reasons. Also, the Strategic Air Command (SAC) may have felt that the YF-12 would threaten the development of their other supersonic bomber, the XB-70 Valkyrie.


Other Areas of Interest:

YF-12A Specifications
Manufacturer:Lockheed Aircraft Corporation
Function:Very high speed Interceptor
Length:101 feet, 8 inches
Wingspan:55 feet, 7 inches
Height:18 feet, 6 inches
Max takeoff weight:124,000 pounds
Max Speed and Altitude:Mach 3.2 above 75,000 feet
Engines:2 Pratt & Whitney J58 engines 31,500 lbs thrust
Fixed Armament:3 Hughes GAR-9/AIM-47A air-to-air radar-guided missile (max speed Mach 4)

YF-12 Timeline:

  • 24 December 1957: First J58 engine run.
  • 30 July 1962: J58 completes pre-flight testing.
  • October 1962: Letter of intent for $1 million for YF-12 delivered to Lockheed.
  • 7 August 1963: First flight of YF-12 (#06934) with Lockheed test pilot James Eastham.
  • 29 February 1964: President Johnson announces existence of A-11 (actually the YF-12).
  • 16 April 1964: First XAIM-47 ejected from YF-12 in flight.
  • 18 March 1965: First firing of YAIM-47 from YF-12A.
  • 1 May 1965: Two YF-12A (#06934 & #06936) set speed and altitude records.
  • 28 September 1965: GAR-9 fired from YF-12A at Mach 3.2 at 75,000 feet.
  • 5 January 1968: Skunk Works receives official notice closing down YF-12 operations.
  • 5 February 1968: Lockheed ordered to destroy A-12, YF-12, and SR-71 tooling.
  • 11 December 1969: NASA's first YF-12 (#06935) flight.
  • 7 November 1979: Last YF-12A (#06935) flown to the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB.

YF-12 Development and Operations:

When the YF-12A Blackbirds were first shown to the public in September of 1964, 06934 and 06936 were used as the flying display, while 06935 was put on static display. They carried Air Defense Command badges on the port vertical tail, and Air Systems Command Badges on the starboard vertical fin. Pods carried under the engine nacelles contained cameras that were used to record missile launches. Landing gear retraction is necessarily fast due to the fact that the Blackbird accelerates quickly to its maximum gear transition speed of 300 knots.

The YF-12A used a combination of long range radar and infrared search sensors along with a precision radar coupled to the infrared tracking system. Range of the radar and infrared trackers was estimated at 200 to 300 miles when it was first shown, giving the YF-12 unparalleled ability to detect and destroy enemy aircraft. The YF-12 used Hughes ASG-18 radar and the GAR-9 missiles that had been developed for the F-108 Rapier.