Out of the black

When US President Lyndon Johnson announced the existence of a high-speed, high-flying Lockheed interceptor, the British government wanted to know more. But even the trans-Atlantic ‘special relationship’ didn’t see Alec Douglas-Home’s administration being told anything like the full story — even if one UK minister was afforded a privileged close-up look at the new YF-12A

A very good view of the YF-12A’s cut-back nose chines and prominent radome, two of the main external differences compared with the A-12 and SR-71A. This aircraft is serial 60-6936, photographed from a KC-135 Stratotanker over the Mojave Desert.

Just how special is the ‘special relationship’? The Reagan-Thatcher rapport, personal as well as political, is often regarded as its zenith. But there are other interpretations: that the relationship is largely one-way traffic, that it primarily sees Britain hanging onto America’s coat tails. Whatever the rights and wrongs, there are examples of it seeming far from special.

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