Planning the SR-71’s supersonic missions: Behind the scenes  

In the March 2013 issue of FlyPast, Ben Dunnell spoke to Lt Col Tom Charters to find out how it was decided where to send the SR-71 on its supersonic missions

Pivotal to SR-71 operations, but often unsung, were those personnel engaged in the intelligence collection and analysis roles. Lt Col Tom Charters was one such officer. “My involvement with the SR-71 started in 1973 at the Strategic Reconnaissance Center at Offutt in Nebraska. The centre was essentially the command centre, if you will, for the command element that directed the plans for missions flown by the SR-71. We would give them the ‘black line’, as we used to call it, based on the national command authority’s priorities. They would come through the DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency] and Joint Reconnaissance Center (JRC) from the national command authorities. Combatant commanders would provide the targets that they specifically wanted imaged, and then we would image them. We called the high-priority targets Primary Mission Objectives, or PMOs.

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