The combination of the shoot down of the U-2 over Russia in 1960, Russia’s moving into Cuba, and the war in Vietnam placed a heavy load on the Central Intelligence Agency to develop a replacement spy plane, unlike anything the world had ever seen before. The CIA reestablishes its station at Area 51 under the CIA’s new Directorate of Science and Technology where it develops America’s first stealth plane, the A-12 Archangel. Designed with slide-rule technology, the CIA produces what is still today the fastest and highest flying manned air-breathing aircraft ever.
The A-12 plane spends 18 months on a pylon situated on the dry Groom Lake during RCS, radar cross section evaluations by the CIA's special projects team at Area 51. It flies 2,850 secret flights out of Area 51 during the flight tests known as Project OXCART. From Area 51, CIA Director Helms deploys people and three planes to a CIA outpost in Kadena, Okinawa where the CIA operationally overflies North Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and North Korea during Operation BLACK SHIELD before the Air Force replacing it with the SR-71, the fourth member of the Blackbird family.
Thornton D. “TD” Barnes, author and entrepreneur, grew up on a ranch at Dalhart, Texas. He graduated from Mountain View High School in Oklahoma and embarked on a ten-year military career. He served as an Army intelligence specialist in Korea and then continued his education while in the US Army, attending two and a half years of missile and radar electronics by day and college courses at night. Barnes deployed with the first combat Hawk missile battalion during the Soviet Iron Curtain threat before attending the Artillery Officer Candidate School, where an injury ended his military career. During his extensive professional career, Barnes was a field engineer at the NASA High Range in Nevada for the X-15, XB-70, lifting bodies and lunar landing vehicles; working on the NERVA project at Jackass Flats, Nevada. He was a member of a special projects team at Area 51 for the Central Intelligence Agency. Barnes later formed a family oil and gas exploration company, drilling and producing oil and gas and mining uranium and gold. Barnes is currently the CEO of Startel, Inc., a landowner, and is actively mining a quarry for landscape rock and gold in Nevada. He is the president of Roadrunners Internationale, an association of Area 51 veterans, and is the executive director of the Nevada Aerospace Hall of Fame. Two National Geographic Channel documentaries feature Barnes: Area 51 Declassified and CIA—Secrets of Area 51. Numerous documentaries on the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, the Travel Channel and others also feature him. The Annie Jacobsen book Area 51 Declassified documents his career. Barnes lives in Henderson, Nevada.