Ever wonder what the real difference between the CIA’s A-12 Oxcart Mach 3 spy plane and its legendary successor, the Air Force’s SR-71 Blackbird?
Well, these declassified documents from 1967 compare the two jets performance side by side. Basically, the Blackbird could carry a lot more spy gear and electronic countermeasures than the A-12 could. What Specifically could the SR-71 carry that the A-12 couldnt?
Here’s a quick breakdown.
On a single mission an SR-71 could carry:
- two “technical objective cameras”
- two “operational objective cameras”
- one “terrain objective camera”
- one “high resolution” side-looking radar
- one infrared camera
- one electronic and communications intelligence-gathering package
- three electronic warfare (countermeasures) systems, “CFAX, APR 27 and System 13C”
While the A-12 could carry some of this gear individually, it had to swap out particular sensors per-mission, according to the report. This meant that the A-12 was lighter and could fly 2,000 to 5,000-feet higher than the SR-71 at comparative speeds. Still, this wasn’t enough of a performance gain to warrant keeping the Oxcarts in service alongside the Blackbirds whose increased sensor loads and better countermeasures made them more useful and survivable than the A-12s, according to the documents.
Click through the jump to read the report.