February 21, 2014
The value of the A-12 must be determined by two standards: aviation and intelligence. It produced what it was intended to: a reconnaissance aircraft that could fly at unprecedented speeds and heights for unequaled ranges, and was essentially invulnerable to enemy attack. Well over 40 years after it first flew, the A-12’s maximum speed and altitude have not been equaled by a piloted operational jet aircraft. The exceptionally demanding design requirements for speed, altitude, and stealth produced innovations in aerodynamic design, engine performance, cameras, metallurgy, use of nonmetallic materials, ECMs, RCS suppression, and life support systems that were used for years after and helped lay the foundation for future stealth research. Finally, no A-12 or its operational successor, the SR-71, was shot down despite hundreds of attempts while they conducted nearly 3,600 operational missions over nearly a quarter century.
Dr. Robarge is the chief historian of the Central Intelligence Agency and has been a member of the agency's history staff since 1996. Before that he worked in the C.I.A. Counterterrorism Center and the Directorate of Intelligence as an analyst on the Palestinian and Iraq accounts. He has published a classified biography of Director of Central Intelligence John McCone, and his articles and book reviews on CIA leaders, counterintelligence, covert action, and technical collection have appeared in the C.I.A.'s in-house journal "Studies in Intelligence," and in "Intelligence and National Security" and the "Journal of Intelligence History." Dr. Robarge holds a Ph.D. in American history from Columbia University, has taught United States intelligence history at George Mason University and has written a biography of Chief Justice John Marshall.