In the 1960s, Lockheed engineer Kelly Johnson was given an almost impossible task by the U.S. Air Force and CIA. He needed to create a spy drone with range, speed, and altitude capabilities that could match the supersonic A-12.

The hope was that Lockheed’s Skunk Works team could build an unmanned reconnaissance aircraft unlike any other in order to replace the increasingly vulnerable U-2 spy plane. The result was the D-21. It was a ramjet with wings and a camera, built to self-destruct after its mission. Early tests were promising, but failures to execute correctly when released over China resulted in several missteps and even a Soviet clone…

The D-21 was initially designed to be launched from the back of an M-21 carrier aircraft, a variant of the Lockheed A-12 aircraft. The drone had maximum speed in excess of Mach 3.3 (2,200 miles per hour; 3,600 kilometers per hour) at an operational altitude of 90,000 feet (27,000 meters). Development began in October 1962. Originally known by the Lockheed designation Q-12, the drone was intended for reconnaissance deep into enemy airspace.

A D-21 on display at the United States Air Force National Museum

The D-21 was designed to carry a single high-resolution photographic camera over a preprogrammed path, then release the camera module into the air for retrieval, after which the drone would self-destruct.[1] Following a fatal accident when launched from an M-21, the D-21 was modified to be launched from a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. Several test flights were made, followed by four unsuccessful operational D-21 flights over the People’s Republic of China, and the program was canceled in 1971.

Sources: YouTube; Wikipedia

UAV DACH: Beitrag im Original auf https://www.uasvision.com/2020/11/27/lockheed-d-21-mach-3-drone/, mit freundlicher Genehmigung von UAS Vision automatisch importiert. Der Beitrag gibt nicht unbedingt die Meinung oder Position des UAV DACH e.V. wieder. Das Original ist in englischer Sprache. Für die Inhalte ist der UAV DACH e.V. nicht verantwortlich.