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Boeing and the US Air Force today said they have tested new technology that for the first time will let military aircraft launch bombs from aircraft moving at supersonic speeds.
The last AIM-47 launched from a YF-12 flying at Mach 3.2 and an altitude of 74,400 feet (22,677 m) at a QB-47 target drone 500 feet (152 m) off the ground. The F-12 program, too, was cancelled by 1966. Hughes had built some 80 pre-production missiles, however, and the technology was used in the development of the AIM-54 Phoenix for the US Navy.
The A-12 is the forerunner of the SR-71 and has nearly the same shape and dimensions as its replacement. Designed to replace the U-2, the A-12
flew higher and four times as fast to outrun enemy defenses and gather intelligence. The A-12 is primarily an over flight vehicle unlike the
SR-71. Its major advantages in capabilities to the SR-71 include its higher-resolution photography and its ability to go marginally faster
(Mach 3.3) than the SR-71. However, the SR-71 was chosen as successor to the A-12 due to its side-looking radar and cameras, allowing it to
gather important reconnaissance data without penetrating enemy airspace.
The USAF had planned to redesignate the A-12 aircraft as the B-71; the B-70 Valkyrie's successor. The B-71 would have a nuclear capability of three first-generation SRAMs (Short-Range Attack Missiles). The next designation was RS-71 (Reconnaissance-Strike) when the strike capability became an option. However, then-USAF Chief of Staff Curtis LeMay preferred the SR (Strategic Reconnaissance) designation and wanted the RS-71 to be named SR-71. Before the Blackbird was to be announced by President Johnson on 29 February 1964, LeMay lobbied to modify Johnson's speech to read SR-71 instead of RS-71. The media transcript given to the press at the time still had the earlier RS-71 designation in places, creating the myth that the president had misread the aircraft's designation.