COL. SAMUEL M. URSINI
Fire Control Officer/ Reconnaissance System Officer
Born 1933 Detroit, Michigan. Graduated University of Detroit and AFROTC 1955.
Selected for navigator Training and entered Air Force in 1955. Awarded navigator Wings 1956 at Ellington AFB, Texas. Following jet interceptor training, assigned to 84th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Hamilton AFB, California as a radar interceptor officer. Upon arrival in 1956 the squadron was transitioning from F-94C to F-89D. Made Combat ready in F-89D and finally F-101B. All at Hamilton AFB.
1957 - Our squadron was selected to launch the first and only live firing of the nuclear "GENIE" MB-1 air to air rocket. We deployed as a flight of four F-89-J's to Indian Springs, Nevada. After the Lead aircraft launched the weapon, we flew through the nuclear cloud at two minute intervals to measure crew susceptibility to radiation. Perhaps that is the cause for my putting yips!
1959 - Married Joanne in Rome, Italy. We have 3 children: David, Lisa, and John.
1961 - Sent to Tyndall AFB for Ground Controller Intercept Training.
1962 - Assigned to San Francisco Air Defense Sector, Beale AFB as SAGE weapons director. The San Francisco Sector had an array of ground radars situated from Oregon to Southern Calif. They all fed radar data to the central hub at Beale AFB. This hub (sector) was responsible for the security of this west coast region so that no enemy aircraft or submarine -launched missiles could penetrate that air space. On duty one day, we had an unknown radar detection at over 60,000 feet and less than 200 knots. Our available interceptor aircraft could not reach that altitude to make a visual identification of this possible intruder. General Tom McGehee, the sector commander, was the only person in the sector who was cleared for the Oxcart Blackbird program with A-12 aircraft located at Groom Lake, Nevada. General McGehee arranged for one of the A-12 Mach 3 aircraft to assist in identifying this very high altitude unknown vehicle. This was an unprecedented action. The General advised me that a very high speed high altitude aircraft , with a call sign of Dutch, would contact me, the controller monitoring this "UNKNOWN". The Dutch aircraft checked in on my radio frequency. He was between Tonopah, Nevada and Sacramento California traveling at three times the speed of our interceptor aircraft. Wow! What a high speed data trail. I vectored him toward the unknown vehicle. He made visual contact with what was identified as an escaped weather balloon in the jet stream. I learned a few years later that the Dutch pilot was, Mele Vojvodich, one of the first CIA A-12 flyers. After this unusual event I wondered how I could get assigned to that classified high speed aircraft program. That I thought would be a dream!! During the next several months I pursued that dream as best I could.
1963 - Transferred to 28th Air Division HQ, Hamilton AFB Fighter Branch.
1964 - Selected to join the YF-12/SR-71 Test Force, Edwards AFB. THE DREAM HAPPENED!!
1964 - Late that year, first flight in YF-12 with Jim Eastham, Lockheed Test Pilot.
1965 - Flew with Jim Eastham on practice speed runs (preceding 1 May 1965 official speed and altitude WORLD records):: This was Kelly Johnson's policy to have company pilot proceed Air Force pilots in new activities. By the way ... Those flights with Jim were without Sec.Def. McNamara's restrictions as to top speeds as were the Air Force World Records in the YF-12 set on 1 May 1965. Sec. McNamara's strategy was to lure the Russians to beat the YF-12 records with their Foxbat MiG 25. This they did. Then the SR-71 later reset the World Records for speed and altitude without constraints. Thirty eight years later, 2005, these records still stand!!
1966 - With pilot Col. Vern Henderson, we were the first military crew to launch the AIM-47 missile from the YF-12. Speed 3.2 Mach, 75,000 feet against a drone 60,000 feet below us. Missile guided to a hit! Seven such launches from YF-12 were made: Six were hits. Following are the details of the YF-12 AIM-47 missile launches.
|Q2C||.8/20K||2.3/65K||36NM||No Guide (lost power)|
|Q2C||.8/20K||3.2/75K||34NM||6 feet Guide|
|Q2C||.6/1.5K||3.2/75K||30NM||9 feet Guide|
|QB-47||6. /1.5K||3.2/75K||31NM||Direct Hit|
|Q2C||.6/20K||3.2/74K||35NM||99 feet Guide|
|QB-47||.6/500 ft over land||3.2/74K||33NM||45 feet Guide|
1969 - Helped convince the Pentagon to bring the YF-12s back to flight test as an Air Force/NASA Program. Program continued for a couple years. Col. Slip Slater commanded the Air Force component.
1970 - Transferred to 7th AF HQ, Saigon as an intelligence officer. Thanks to Col. Sam Hollenbeck, 388th Tac Fighter Wing, reassigned to the 469th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Korat, Thailand. Checked out in the F-4E. Flew 190 combat missions.
1971 - HQ NORAD, Colorado Springs Plans and Requirements Staff Officer
1975 - Assigned to Central Treaty Organization, Ankara, Turkey. Diplomatic tour.
1976 - Retired from U.S. Air Force.
1977 - Joined Grumman Aerospace Corp., Long Island, NY as EF-111 Deputy Program Director
1980 - Joined Fairchild Republic Corp., Long Island, NY, as Vice President Systems Development
1983 - Joined Global Analytics Corp., San Diego, CA Stealth Systems.
1990 - Company evolved into Martin Marietta Corporation Advanced Concepts and finally Lockheed Martin Corporation.
1996 - Retired as Director of Business Development, Lockheed Martin Corporation Advanced Development Office.
TOTAL FLIGHT HOURS: 3,900 - YF-12/SR-71: 305 hours
Click on images to enlarge
Me and Vern Henderson just before flight
Me, Joe Rogers and our elite ADC (Air Defense Command) maintenance personnel. The EM in white on the right are our (physiological) pressure suit experts.
Me and Vern Henderson - first military crew to fire a missile from the YF-12A