Is this official CIA photo caption (A-12) wrong?

The CIA has an official photo account on Flickr. On the 8th page, they have several photos of the A-12 on their grounds. The caption on the pictures say “No piloted operational jet aircraft has ever flown faster or higher.” Well, according to multiple sources, the SR-71 has the absolute speed record and the Mig-25 has the altitude records.

Is the CIA lying to me?

The FAI agrees with you. It may be that the caption is talking about sustained altitude, since the MiG’s altitude record was not in level flight. Also, the MiG was supposedly heavily modified and stripped down, as opposed to a production A-12.

It’s also possible they’re combining the A-12 and SR-71 records, since they are nearly the same plane.

But, yes, strictly speaking, that caption is wrong

FWIW, just found this page http://www.sr-71.org/blackbird/a-12/ that states that the A-12 was “marginally faster” than the SR-71. Don’t know how authoritative it is, but there you go. I suppose it’s possible that since the A-12 was even more covert than the SR-71 program it’s performance records were not submitted to FAI.

So, the caption may true for certain definitions of “faster” and “higher”.

Going by Wiki, it says the SR-71 had maximum speed and altitude respectively of 2193.2 mph and 85,069 feet.

The A-12 they list as 2210 and 95,000.

The Mig-25 does an absolute altitude record of 123,523.62 ft.

I wonder if the caption’s use of the word “operational” allows them to discount a superior achievement.

ETA: Upon review I see the semantical issue’s been mentioned. Therin may lie the basis for their claim.

The SR71 wiki says it holds the record for “Altitude in Horizontal Flight: 85,068.997 ft” although I don’t see anything on the fai page.

I don’t know about the MiG-25, but the SR-71 is no longer operational.

I believe by including “operational” in the caption they were saying “in routine = operational use at the time the record was set, as opposed to experimental vehicles like the X-15.”

I don’t think they mean to say “operational at the time you are reading this web page.”

Yup, MIG-25s are still around. Old, but lurking about.

I thought I would bump this question since I happen to stumble upon a CIA page that addressed the question.

It give a very politician-like answer along with an infographic about half way down the page:

*"Inevitably, any comparison of the two aircraft will lead to the question: which one is faster? There is lot of controversy among airplane enthusiasts as to which aircraft holds that title. There’s no simple answer.

The OXCART has a documented maximum speed and altitude of 2,208 MPH at 90,000 feet, set during a test in 1965, while the SR-71 holds the official speed record for a piloted operational jet aircraft of 2,193 MPH, set on July 28, 1976. On the same date the Blackbird set an official world altitude record of 85,069 feet.

Unofficially, of course, pilots of both aircraft have anecdotal stories indicating the numbers of both aircraft may be higher, and some SR-71 test reports show that the aircraft surpassed the official records for speed and altitude.

Nevertheless, both the A-12 OXCART and the SR-71 Blackbird are regarded as pioneering achievements in aeronautical engineering and the pinnacle of aviation technology during the Cold War."*

According to this CIA memo, the A-12 has an altitude advantage over the SR-71: