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Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird High-Altitude Reconnaissance Aircraft (1966)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 7/20/2015

The SR-71 maintained an excellent operational service record during its Cold War tenure, though a dozen were lost to accidents.





The sleek SR-71 Blackbird spyplane reached an all new plateau in supersonic high-level flight for the Lockheed Corporation. Developed from the YF-12A interceptor program which spawned the A-12 program which in turn generated the basis for the SR-71 system, the Blackbird became the ultimate tool for the American Central Intelligence Agency throughout the Cold War.

The SR-71 "Blackbird" was so named in that fashion due to the specialized heat absorbing and radar dissipating color scheme applied to the series. The A model was crewed by two personnel that were required to wear astronaut-type flight suits due to the rigors of high altitude flight. Looking every bit the part of stealth plane, the SR-71 was instrumental in reconnaissance of enemy Cold War facilities of the Western Bloc.

The Blackbird was of a streamlined delta-type design featuring a smooth elongated fuselage housing instrumentation and fuel. The twin continuous-bleed turbojet engines were held out mid-wing and were the bread and butter of the series, helping the system achieve flight speeds in excess of Mach 3 at well over 70,000 feet. At the time of its inception, the SR-71 was the world's fastest conventionally-powered aircraft.

The initial SR-71 series was developed from experimental YF-121-A interceptor aircraft. From that development, the A-12 series produced 15 of its type which became a favorite of the CIA for its Mach 3.6 capability and useful in the launching of the D-21 reconnaissance drone. The ultimate version became the well-known SR-71 and achieved full operational status in 1966 with a total of 30 aircraft being produced.

Training for SR-71 pilots was handled via a single SR-71B series model and a single SR-71C series model, the latter based highly on a converted A-series model. The SR-71 faced full retirement status in 1989. Two SR-71's were activated out of retirement in in the middle of the 1990's with the whole series once again seeing full retirement in April of 1998.

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Specifications for the
Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird
High-Altitude Reconnaissance Aircraft


Focus Model: Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird
Country of Origin: United States
Manufacturer: Lockheed Skunkworks, Lockheed Corporation - USA
Initial Year of Service: 1966
Production Total: 32


Crew: 2


Length: 107.41 ft (32.74 m)
Width: 55.58 ft (16.94 m)
Height: 18.50ft (5.64 m)
Weight (Empty): 67,501 lb (30,618 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 172,005 lb (78,020 kg)


Powerplant: 2 x Pratt & Whitney J58-1 continuous-bleed, afterburning turbo-ramjets generating 32,500lbs of standard thrust.


Maximum Speed: 2,275 mph (3,661 kmh; 1,977 kts)
Maximum Range: 3,355 miles (5,400 km)
Service Ceiling: 85,000 ft (25,908 m; 16.1 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 11,810 feet-per-minute (3,600 m/min)


Hardpoints: 0
Armament Suite:
None. Internal provisioning limited to reconnaissance and surveillance equipment.


Variants:
A-12 - Precursor Model to the SR-71


M-21 - A-12 with DB-21 autonomous surveillance drone mounted atop fuselage.

M/D-21 - Designation of M-21 when mated with the DB-21 drone.

SR-71A - Base Production Model; 30 examples produced.

SR-71B - Two-seat trainer conversions; 2 examples produced.

SR-71C - Interesting conversion of a surviving aft-section of an ill-fated YF-12 with a SR-71 forward section. Only one of this type was produced.


Operators:
United States