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April 26, On this Day in Aviation History

April 26, On this Day in Aviation History

1962 – The first flight of the Lockheed A-12. When the shooting war of WWII was replaced with the Cold War in 1947, it was imperative for the United States to have eyes in the sky to keep track of military activities inside the Soviet Union. Immediately after the war, the US began flying reconnaissance missions around the periphery of the Soviet Union, but these slow aircraft often became the targets of Russian jet fighters and fell prey to Russian guns. The answer to the problem was a new reconnaissance aircraft, one that could fly high enough to be out of reach of any contemporary fighter. At first, that aircraft was the Lockheed U-2, which entered service in 1955. But it didn’t take long for the U-2 to become vulnerable to radar-guided missiles, and the CIA found themselves in need of a new plane that could fly still higher and faster. Project Rainbow attempted to make the U-2 less observable to enemy radar but, when that proved unsuccessful, Lockheed’s super-secret Skunk Works, led by Kelly Johnson, began an internal project to develop a successor to the U-2 in a program that the CIA called Oxcart.

Updated: April 25, 2019 — 9:40 AM

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