Exclusive Area 51 Photos: The Beginnings of the A-12
Area 51, synonymous with strange air craft and conspiracy theories, was where air craft was tested while still in the developmental stage. It was started up in the 50′s during the Cold War, in hopes of developing planes that could help the US get an edge over Russia. A project known as Project OXCART was developed to test the A-12, which was to replace the U-2 spy planes.
The A-12 could evade radar detection fairly well, could fly across continental US in 70 minutes with a speed of 2,200 miles an hour, and the on board cameras could capture a fair amount of detail from 90,000 feet in the air. However, because the plane was still in testing, a rather unfortunate and catastrophic crash occurred. The pilot, Mr. Ken Collins, was doing some tests at a low altitude when the plane started climbing and then flipped over on its back, ending in a spin and crash. Fortunately for Mr. Collins, he realized that he could not recover control of the plane and ejected. A decision which saved him at least from a great deal of pain, and likely saved his life.
The crash left bits of the A-12 in the ground, including two engines and the broken rear fuselage. After Mr. Collins landed, civilians offered him a ride back to what was left of his plane, however because of the secret nature of Area 51 he directed them away from the wreckage. He used the cover story that the plane had been carrying a nuclear weapon and was dangerous. The CIA quickly moved in and did it’s own clean up and cover up following the incident. Between the time of the crash and the beginning of clean up, the bits of plane left on the ground were covered up by tarp.
During the clean up, large pieces of the plane, such as wings and big chunks of the body, were cut up with blow torches and loaded onto trucks. The smaller pieces were boxed up and loaded onto trucks. While most of the debris was cleaned up by the crew, small pieces of Titanium have been found at the crash site even recently. Using a metal detector, Mr. Peter Merlin, an areospace historian has searched the area of the crash for bits of the plane and other evidence of what happened.
The SR-71 Blackbird, which flew missions from 1966 to 1990, was the successor to the A-12. The Blackbird was larger than the A-12 and carried more fuel. It also had adjustments made to its body shape to make it more stable and more stealthy, perhaps in part due to the crash of the A-12. It is certain that Area 51 continues to test planes still in development, though it is also as secretive as ever.
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Photos by CIA and NASA
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