Albert Wheelon

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Albert "Bud" Wheelon (1929-) was the first Deputy Director of Science & Technology (DDST) for the Central Intelligence Agency (1962-1966) and then an aerospace executive. He was a member of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (1983-1988). He is particularly known for his contributions to reconnaissance technology.

He joined Hughes Aircraft Company in 1966. While newly Executive Vice President, he served on the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident in 1986. He became Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board in 1987, and retired in 1988. Wheelon became a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from which he had received his doctorate in theoretical physics in 1952.

He came to the CIA to head the Office of Scientific Intelligence, then in the Directorate of Intelligence. previously having worked for TRW on radio systems. Soon afterwards, OSI chief "Pete" Scoville moved up to head CIA's Directorate of Research. OSI was to move to Scoville's directorate, but Wheelon, known as an effective bureaucratic fighter, got it back, but reported to Ray Cline, an economic analyst and long-term CIA official that he disliked. Scoville resigned in 1962 and Wheelon took his job, refocusing research to include operational technical collection. He was active in collection during the Cuban Missile Crisis.[1]

Other DDST projects included electronic intelligence, shared with the National Security Agency. They developed a technique, codenamed PALLADIUM, which generated false aircraft radar images to Soviet radars. By varying the strength of the image, they could determine the sensitivity of the radar.[2]

In 2000, he was recognized as a "Pioneer of National Reconnaissance" by the National Reconnaissance Office. The award specifically identified his contributions to OXCART, the code name for the SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft, and several satellites. [3] One of the satellites was the now-declassified CORONA (satellite) program, the first successful imagery intelligence system that returned film capsules to earth. The other satellites were probably the KH-8 GAMBIT, KH-9 HEXAGON (also known as BIG BIRD), and KH-11 KENNAN.[4]

He spoke of SR-71 development, at Area 51 and Washington, to the Roadrunners International meeting in 2003. [5], and was recognized at a 2007 presentation of a retired SR-71 to CIA Headquarters.


  1. Charting a Technical Revolution: An Interview with Former DDS&T Albert Wheelon, Central Intelligence Agency
  2. Gene Poteat (1998), Stealth, Countermeasures, and ELINT, 1960-1975, "Science, Technology and the CIA", Studies in Intelligence
  3. NRO honors Pioneers of National Reconnaissance, National Reconnaissance Office, 18 August 2000
  4. E.H. Knoche, Deputy Director of Central Intelligence (30 September 1976), Memorandum for the Record, Subject: Meeting with National Security Advisor Brzezinski, in Jeffrey T. Richelson, Science, Technology and the CIA, vol. Electronic Briefing Book No. 54, George Washington University National Security Archive
  5. DDST Support of OXCART, Roadrunners International, 2 October 2003