My opinion: The first time I ever saw this plane, I was lost. It was big, black, fast, and a record breaker. Could you ask for more? I couldn't.
The baby was my dream to fly, but then I realized that:
1. I wasn't an American
2. It was a spy plane.
3. I was a Danish kid, in the age of 10
4. Woops, they stopped to use the plane, due to economical cost
When USAF stop to use an aero plane, due to their wallet size, that means that the cost are major!
MissionShort and sweet: Fly for 8 hours, and spy on the enemy, at Mach 3, at an altitude, where missiles and no other plane would be able to intercept it.
Originally designated SR-71, the Skunk Works was forced to change about 29,000 blueprints to SR-71 when Lyndon Johnson accidentally turned the letters around during his 1964 announcement acknowledging the existence of the airplane.
Called the Blackbird, the SR-71 was so far ahead of its time that to this day very few (such as the X-15 and the Space Shuttle) airplanes can outperform it. Everything about this airplane's creation was gigantic: the technical problems that had to be overcome, the political complexities surrounding its funding, even the ability of the Air Force's most skilled pilots to master this "incredible wild horse of the stratosphere." It was a gigantic leap over the U-2 in every way. In the words of Kelly Johnson, "It makes no sense to just take this one or two steps ahead, because we'd be buying only a couple of years before the Russians would be able to nail us again. No, I want us to come up with an airplane that can rule the skies for a decade or more." He wanted to design an airplane that used conventional engines and fuel, but still be able to outrace any missile.
The Blackbird, code-named Oxcart during its development, flies on a tremendous 65,000 lbs. of thrust at an altitude of 100,000+ feet at Mach 3.5, and has a range of four thousand miles. That is not only four times faster than the U-2 but seven miles higher - and the U-2 was then the current high-altitude champion.
For a long time the Air Force claimed a maximum speed of Mach 3.2 and an operational ceiling of 85,000 feet, but we now know that the SR-71 can soar above 100,000 feet. Some military pilots claim altitudes in excess of 125,000 feet but this is probably stretching it a bit. Compared to the fastest jet fighter America had at the time, the SR-71 flew at least 60 percent faster than its maximum speed on afterburner. Experimental rocket engines had flown this fast for only two or three minutes at a time before running out of fuel.
But the Blackbird can cruise at more than three times the speed of sound, and fly coast to coast in less than an hour on one tank of gas. The aircraft can also survey more than 100,000 square miles of the Earth's surface in one hour. The Blackbird actually stretches a few inches during flight, due to the massive temperatures on its titanium hull. To many, the Blackbird is the epitome of grace and power, not to mention blinding speed.
Two other planes, the A-12 and the YF-12, could easily be mistaken for the SR-71. The A-12 was the first plane developed out of the three. It is actually a host plane for the smaller, faster, and higher-flying D-21 drone, code-named Tag board, which sat piggyback on the A-12 and used a ramjet engine once released for flight. The project was soon cancelled, however, due to a fatal accident, and the D-21 went on to use the B-52 as a transport host. The YF-12 was an SR-71 with an internal bay carrying three Hughes GAR-9/ AIM-47A air to air radar guided missiles, designed to shoot enemy airplanes flying at lower altitudes. Only three YF-12s were ever built.
|Date of test ||Altitude of YF-12 ||Speed of YF-12 ||Altitude of target ||Results |
|March, 1965 ||65,000 feet ||Mach 2.19 ||40,000 feet ||Target destroyed |
|May, 1965 ||4,800 feet ||Mach 2.18 ||20,000 feet ||Missile gyro failure |
|September, 1965 ||5,200 feet ||Mach 3.22 ||20,000 feet ||Target destroyed |
|March, 1966 ||4,000 feet ||Mach 3.16 ||1,700 feet ||Target destroyed |
|April, 1966 ||75,200 feet ||Mach 3.20 ||1,100 feet ||Target destroyed |
|May, 1966 ||76,000 feet ||Mach 3.20 ||20,000 feet ||Target destroyed |
|September, 1966 ||74,400 feet ||Mach 3.20 ||500 feet ||Target destroyed |
This chart "borrowed" from John Stone's Lockheed Blackbird Information As of January 1st, 1997, two SR-71 air crews and planes were declared mission ready for the first time since the plane's retirement, seven years ago. In 1994, Congress appropriated funds to put two aircraft back into service, and these airplanes were taken out of storage, refurbished, and delivered to the USAF. (One was located at NASA's Dryden research facility and the other at the Skunk Works.) These two Blackbirds and their crews are now based at Edwards Air Force Base, though administratively, they are part of the 9th Recon Wing at Beale. These SR-71s are equipped with reconnaissance sensors, including the Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar system that provides near real-time, all-weather, day or night imagery. "My goal was to bring the SR-71 back quickly, within budget, and most importantly, in a safe manner," said Brig. Gen. Robert Behler, 9th Reconnaissance Wing commander at Beale. "I'm proud to say we've accomplished this goal and we look forward to demonstrating a mobility capability later this year." Remember that A-10 Thunderbolt that crashed into a Colorado mountain in April? Well, guess what two planes were involved in the search . . .