Tag Archives: X47B

On the beginnings of drones

1962, one of the Cold War’s Milestones, the Cuban’s Missiles Crisis and the Blockade, John Glenn the first american orbited the Earth in the NASA’s Mercury Program, Neil Armstrong as a test pilot, among others, flew with the X-15 plane to 40km altitudes and Mach 7 (Armstrong reached a 6.420 km/h speed), the Boeing 707 dominated the skies and The Beatles were rejected in an audition.

On the 1st of may of 1960, Francis Gary Powers were shot by the shock wave of fourteen SA-2 missiles that chased him, President Eisenhower had to admit to URSS premier Khrushchev that the U2 flight had a spying mission. Francis was exchanged for a soviet spy in 1962 and the direct U2 overflying were suspended, not near the coasts.

China started its nuclear program on 1959 and the Lop Nur Nuclear Test facilities were the target to photograph. Lop Nur is in the north east of China, near Mongolia, far far away from the Pakistan’s, european, turkish, and taiwanese U2 air bases, it was 3.300 km out of range even for the most experienced U2 pilots (the flew in missions up to 8 hours and 6.500 km) . The A12 were in development but it is needed more range without air re-fueling.

But again, Skunk Works were on the top of the plane’s development, the A12 (later the SR71 Blackbird) flew for the first time for reaching higher altitudes and five times faster than U2. In parallel, the genius engineers (Ben Rich and Kelly Johnson) start thinking about the first drone carried on top of an A12. This is the story.

Lockheed Martin D21 Drone

Lockheed Martin D21 Drone on SR71 mothership. Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_D-21