THE CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY AND OVERHEAD RECONNAISSANCE - TH

Created: 1/1/1974

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This document contains information aJSecOng the national security ol the United States within Ihe meaning of che espionage laws U. S. Code Tide IS.. Therohibits its trinrmiinon or tbetoo of io contents in any manner to an unauthorised person, as we'd as is use in any csanner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States or for the benefit of any foreign government to the detriment of the United Stales.o be teen only by personnel especiallynd authorized to receive information in the designated

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Its securjryoiust be maintained in accordance withertaining to fl '1System.

The Central Intelligence Agency and Overhead Reconnaissance:

dtfeat

nd OXCART

History Staff Central Intelligence Agency.

Although overflights of the Soviet Union appeared to be .out of the question, the OXCAKTs eventual employment elsewhere in the worldtrong possibility. pdrtiirjJ.triy. aiier tbe .Cuban Missile Crisis of2 demonstrated the continuing raced for manned uratepe reconnaissance. suraafLSincc satellites bad kk been ableupply dip kinds of coverages hadoverflights of Coba->fcvcrthe]ess,emained volnera-ble to surface-to-air missiles (as bad once again beea demonstrated by the downinguring tbe Missilend project headquarters had even briefly considered seoding2 over Cuba inven though the aircraft still lacked the required JSS engines and would have had to use much less powerfulfter the Missile Crisis ended. Airs continued to photograph Cubaacit superpower understanding that such monitoring of the withdrawal of tbe missiles would proceed without interference. But the possibility of future Soviet or Cuban action againsts remained, raising the dismaying prospect that tbe United States would not be able to tell if the Soviet Union was reintroducing ballisticinto Cuba.

Such fears became acute in tbe summer4 after Soviet Premier Nifciu Khrushchev told foreign visitors such as columnist Drew Pearson, former Senator William Beaton, and Danish Prime Minister Jens Otto Krag that, once the US elections had been held ins flying over Cuba would be shot down. Project head-quaners therefore began preparing contingency plans (Project SKYLARK) for the possible eroployment of OXCART over Cuba.

even though the new aircraft was not yet ready for ope ratio as.he Acting DO. Geo. Marshall S. Carter, ordered the

project staff to achieve emergency operational readiness of the

OXCARTn case Premier Khrushchev actually

carried out his threat to shoots.B

To meet this deadline, the Office of Special Activitiesetachment of five pilots and ground crews to conduce flights tocamera performance and qualify pilots forperations. Simulating Cuban missions during training flights, tbe detachment

"On2 lotmsonis -Ajehaafetui OH performancempBKt its Mtxaicd by projecthi eosuote ate over Cuba) -ouKJ bc% spectacular.-

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oemonstraied its abilityonduct overflights of Cuba byovember deadline, which passed without any hostile action by the Soviets or Cubans. The octachment then worked to develop thefor sustained operations with its' fivell'these preparations were valuable training for the OXCARTven though "the SKYLARK contingency plan 'wispal-into'effects continued to satisfy collection requirements for Cuba,ere reserved for more critical :

When the Agency declared that OXCART had acfuevedoperational statushe aircraft' was still not prepared for electronic warfare, as only one of the several planned electronic countermeasurc devices had been installed.enior government panel decided that the OXCART could conduct initial overflights of Cubaull complement of warning and jamming devices, should the need for such missions arise.

One reason for the delay in corrujleriog OXCART'S electronic warfare preparations was the Air Force's concern that OXCART use of existing ECM devices could, in the event of the loss of an OXCART over hostile territory, compromise the ECM equipment used by Atr Force bombers and fighters. Even if OXCARTs ECM devices were merely similar to military ECM systems, the Air Force still worried that their use would give the Soviets an oopc*tunity to work oui countermeasures.

Such concerns led the Agency to an entirely different approach to antiradar efforts in Project KEMPSTER. This project aoempied to develop electron guns that could be mounted oa the OXCART toan ion cloud tn front of the plane thai would reduce its radar cross section. Although this project proved unsuccessful, the CIA alsoumber of more conventional ECM devices for use in the OXCART."

As the OXCARTs performance and equipment continued tothere was renewed consideration of deploying the aircraft overseas, particularly in Asia, where US military activity wasOnCI McCone. Secretary of Defense McNamara. and Deputy Secretary of Defense Vance discussed the

growing hazards confronting aerial reconnaissance of the People's Republic of China. Ln three years the Agency had losts over China, and the Air Force had lost numerous reconnaissance drones Tbe three men agreed towith all the preparatory steps needed for the OXCART to operate over China so that it would be ready in case the-President decided to authorize such missions.

Project BLACK SHIELD, the plan for Far Eastalled for OXCART aircraft to be based at Kadena airbase on Okinawa. In the first phase, three planes would be flown to Okinawa

ersonnel. Later there wouldermanent detachment at Kadena. In preparation for the possibility of such operations, the Defense Department7 million to provide support facilities and real-time secure communications on the island by early autumn

In the summerfter the United Stares had begunlarge numbers of troops into South Vietnam. Southeast Asia became another possible target for the OXCART. Because theuses for reconnaissance missions over North Vietnam was threatened by the deployment of Soviet-made surface-to-air missiles. McNamara asked tbe CIA5 whether it would beto substitute OXCART aircrafts. The new DCI. Adm. William F. Rabom. replied that the OXCART could operate over Vietnam as soon as it had passed its final ooeja^ona^ readiness tests."

Formal consideration of proposed OXCART missions involved the same apprcajaLpsacess thai was usedverflights. In latefter the OXCART had passed its final validation tests,ommittee met toroposal to deploy the OXCART to Okinawa to overfly Southeast Asia and China. Although the committee did not approve deployment, it ordered theand maintenanceuick-reaction capability, ready to deploy to Okinawa withinays after notification.

TS Code-oral

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There the nutter remained for moreear. During the first halfCI Raborn raised tbe issue of deploying the OXGART to Okinawa at fiveommittee meetings but failed to win

sufficient support. The JCS and the PFlAB supported the CIA'sof OXCART deployment- Top Sate and Defense Departmenthowever, thought that the political risks of basing the aircraft inwould almost certainly disclose it to theany gains from the intelligence the OXCART might gather. Onhe divergent views-were presented to President Jobnsoo. who upheldommiuee's majorityagainst deployment for the time being.'* -

The CIA then proposed an OXCART overflight of Cuba in order to test the aircraft's ECM systemsostile environment. Oneptemberommittee considered and reject this idea on the grounds that sending OXCART over Cuba "would disturb thecalm prevailing io that area of our foreign

With operational missions still ruled out. proficiency trainingthe main order of business. This led to improvements inplans and flight tactics that enabled the detachment to reduce the rime required to deploy to Okinawa fromaysecordsto fall to the OXCART. Onockheed test pilot flew28 kilometers over the continental United States in slightly more than six hours, for an average speedilometers per hour (which included in-flight refueling at speeds as lowilometers perhis flightecord for speed and distance unapproachable by any other aircraft."

Two weeks later,2 crasheduel gauge mal functioned and the aircraft ran out of fuel short of the ruo-way. Pilot ^BBHs*ejected but was killed when he could not become separated from the ejection seat. To preserve the secrecy of the OXCART program, the Air Force informed the press that anas missing and presumedoss, like the three preceding crashes, did not result from difficulties caused by high-speed, mgh-temperature flight but from traditional problemsin any new aircraft.

Proposals for OXCART operations continued to surface, and in7 the CIAetailed request toommittee to use the OXCART to collect strategic intelligenceew

OXCART.SA Hiitory.TS

OSA Huiocy. chap.TSOXCART.Sk

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