The Lockheed D-21B Reconnaissance System

The Lockheed D-21B Reconnaissance System

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  • Gavrilo Milentijević
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The Lockheed D-21B Reconnaissance System October 1968

Citat:The Lockheed D-21 unmanned drone was launched at Mach 3 from a pylon mounting on top of the rear fuselage of an A12 Blackbird. The designation of the A12 then became an M21 with the D-21 installed. Two A12's were modified (#60-6940 and #60-6941) to carry the D-21 Drone. In June of 1963 a D-21 was mated to a mother ship for the first time. Actual first flight did not occur until December of 1964. After flying the Photo Reconnaissance mission, the D-21 flew to friendly territory and the camera was ejected from the D-21 Drone. The cameras were recovered in flight by a C-130 mid-air recovery system. The D-21 drone would self-destruct at a low altitude. Kelly Johnson, Lockheed Skunk Works Chief Engineer, cancelled the M21 program when a D-21 was launched into the area behind the cockpit of the M21 resulting in loss of the Launch Control Officer's life and loss of the aircraft. The D-21's then was mated to a B-52H Stratofortress (Project was called Senior Bowl). Five operational missions were flown in this configuration over China. Operations ceased due to political reasons, cost and difficulty of operation. The "Museum of Flight" in Seattle, Washington has the only A-12/Drone display combo in existence.


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