History from the CIA archive
During the creation of the new high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft Lockheed A-12, which was being developed by order of the CIA of the USA, the Americans encountered active espionage from the USSR. Despite the fact that tests of prototypes were carried out in the state of Nevada, in a secret and carefully protected area known as Zone-51, Soviet intelligence was trying in all possible ways to get pictures of a new American aircraft. One of these methods was spy satellites, which regularly flew over the base and took photographs of everything that was there. Since the time of flight of satellites was known in advance, the Americans built several huge canopies near the test zone, under which they had to hide all secret equipment every time. All work was tied to the time of flight of the Soviet satellite, whose flight schedule at the base was known better than the service bus schedule. As a result, quite a lot of time was spent on moving vehicles under the shed and back. People who worked on the A-12 project in their memoirs complained that it was extremely difficult to work normally in such conditions.
After some time, it became known that the Russians had sketches of the plane involved in the trials. It was a rather primitive drawing without any details, but nevertheless it gave an idea of the dimensions of the future spy plane.
Eliminating the leakage option, since the images were very exemplary, the CIA came to the conclusion that the Russians were using an infrared camera mounted on a satellite for photographing. After all, even after the plane was cleaned under a shed, its silhouette remained on hot earth. The temperature of the soil, which was in the shadow of the plane, could not change instantly. This invisible shadow was filmed by a Soviet satellite. Further along several such pictures and the position of the sun at that moment, it became possible to calculate the exact dimensions of the secret aircraft. Then the Americans decided to mislead the enemy and made several layouts that distorted the dimensions of the prototype. They used wood and cardboard as material for the layouts. The false planes also hid under a shed, leaving the satellites only a cold spot on the ground and creating the illusion that there were several prototypes, not just one.For greater certainty, even periodically they started the engine behind them, which they brought on a trolley (the infrared camera saw the heated track), so that it seemed that they were flying. They write that it was not possible to advance further than the shadows of Soviet intelligence. The details of the project became known only after the neck was removed from it in secret.
On the first photo and below is the Lockheed A-12 titanium mockup during the tests, which should have shown how visible it is on the radar screen. The model was twisted at different angles and raised on a special pylon to different heights. Quickly hiding it before the passage of the Soviet satellite was still that task.
The project was so secret that the aircraft to the test site were transported in special wooden boxes and under heavy guard.
This was another special operation, because they had to be taken from Los Angeles, and from it to Site-51 almost 600 km.
When in 1963 the first A-12 crashed over Utah, and the catapulted pilot was found by local residents who wanted to take it to the site of the fall of the wreckage, he told them that there were nuclear weapons on board and that they should keep from there as far as possible.Soon the crash site was cordoned off by the CIA officers, who thoroughly cleaned the area, and issued the plane itself for another. As a result, no one knew what actually happened there. The pilot himself was interrogated under anesthesia and with the use of a “truth serum” in order to be sure that he would reveal all the details of the incident as honestly and thoroughly as possible. About the fall of the A-12 became known only after the CIA declassified the archives for the project in 2007.
In total, 18 aircraft (some of them were prototypes), which were in operation from 1963 to 1968, were produced under the A-12 development program. The Lockheed A-12 served as the basis for creating the fastest aircraft in the history of mankind - the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, which reached a fantastic speed of 3529.6 km / h, but that’s another story.