Photos of Crashed CIA A-12 Spyplane Outside Area 51

OK, you have to check this out. National Geographic just published this awesome slideshow documenting the crash site of one of the CIA’s A-12 spy planes operating out of Area 51 in 1963. The image above is from the collection featuring recently declassified photos of the A-12 program. It’s pretty amazing to see the mockup of the Mach-3 jet sitting there above the ancient looking jeep. The airframe is on the big stick so that Lockheed and CIA engineers can test its radar signature.

Below is a teaser of the pics you’ll find on the show. It’s the empennage of the A-12 that crashed in the desert near Wendover Utah after getting into an unrecoverable spin. National Geo does a great job at describing the efforts to cover up the fact that the super secret plane went down, noting how the pilot kept civilians from approaching the wreck by telling them the plane was carrying a nuclear weapon.

  • blondefletch

    YF-12, precursor to this aircraft was the interceptor, not the A-12 Mark!

  • Jayson

    Ancient jeep haha. The ol’ Wiley’s were the best jeeps until Hummer came along. But so expensive when Wiley’s were cheap, easy to maintain/repair and reliable. Those were the days. As for the jet, nice read, I love historical relics like this. As far as I’m concerned they aren’t out of style and can still do their role if the big heads would send them in.

  • DJR

    “The airframe is on the big stick so that Lockheed and CIA engineers can test its radar signature.”
    The real reason is because of Soviet satellites taking photos of the test base. The planes’ shadow was painted on cardboard and plcaed on the tarmack as the satellite passed over. Pilots and engineers complained about “wheeling in and out” the plane every time a soviet satellite passed.

    • Jack D. Ripper

      Funny thing is that they mount aircraft upside down like that today to check radar signatures of aircraft. The jeep was most likely ‘to wheel it in and out’. You guys were both right.

  • RMR

    Although Kelly Johnson Knew alot about alot, the SR71 was called “the Flying Fuel Leak”by those who worked on her. They routinely were issued new uniforms,&,new boots every month,becauseof the corrosive nature of the fuel. The plane grew significantly in flight. This caused the fuel tanks to crack & leak. Placing bladders in the tanks only delayed the leaks for a short while.

    • Riceball

      I’ve always read that the leaks were a design feature and were present to allow for the fuel tanks to expand when heated up during flight. Once the SR-71 was at cruising speed the tanks no longer leaked because they’ve expanded and thus sealed the leaks.

      • Atomic Walrus

        Leakage was a feature of the design, but not something intentionally designed. Rather, it was more important to accomodate thermal expansion than to seal the fuel tanks on the ground. The leakage was never desirable, and meant that the aircraft had to refuel shortly after take-off to achieve decent range.

      • camlo 1969

        Your right, the the thermo sealing at speed was intentional because no existing bladder or sealant could tolerate the high temperatures or corrosive fuel mixture of the blackbirds, they even had their own tanker fleet for the special jp mixture.

  • Paul Blackburn

    Disclaimer: I have no vested interest and nothing to do with the book below.

    About 2/3 thru new book “Area 51” and it is a great collection of exhaustive research about Area 51 & its history, products. Didn’t expect much d/t what I thought was going to be a rehash of all the sensationalistc stuff (UFO aliens helping us build alien technology, etc) but the book is exhaustively researched and takes you through the inception, development, and lots of other truly interesting history. For anyone liking aviation, secret spy stuff, and how it got to be what it is today, this is a must read. Answers questions and speculation such as the question above.

    New York Times review if you check out their Book Review section.

    An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base

    By Annie Jacobsen

    523 pages. Illustrated. Little, Brown and Company. $27.99.

  • jemc50

    A-12 and SR-71 did a heckuva job for being built in the 1960s and was able to perform for a long time, thanks to those who maintained and flew it. Big technology jump for the times.

  • anon

    There are a few websites dedicated to digging out the wreckage in the desert. Here’s one of them:….

  • Dan Morton

    What is next in the pipeline line for new spy planes?

  • dslnflsk