Joel Carpenter:
In late 1953, Lockheed's legendary Chief Engineer, Clarence L. ("Kelly") Johnson, was anticipating the first flight of his latest creation, the highly-advanced XF-104A Starfighter, the world's first Mach 2 combat aircraft. Johnson's reputation in the Pentagon was such that when he had proposed the airplane - unsolicited - to General Donald Putt's Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) the previous year, one of Putt's Colonels had promptly written a specification around the design and placed an order for prototypes.

As the F-104 was being prepared to be shipped to Edwards AFB for its maiden flight, Johnson heard rumors of Air Force and CIA interest in developing a unique new type of covert strategic reconnaissance aircraft, highly specialized and intended to fly at heights that would insure that no enemy defenses would be capable of reaching it - or even detecting it at all, if possible. The Air Force had not approached Lockheed for a proposal for this requirement, planning instead to work with smaller, more easily managed airframe contractors. Based on information discussed by U-2 experts Jay Miller and Chris Pocock, it appears likely that one unofficial source of the information about the reconnaissance requirement could have been Johnson's personal friend Philip Strong, a Reserve US Marine Corps Colonel who was Chief of the Operations Staff of CIA's Office of Scientific Intelligence. In addition to his concerns over building a CIA role in technical intelligence gathering, Strong had a keen interest in UFOs, having been an organizer and attendee at the CIA's Robertson Panel meetings nearly a year before.