Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird High-Altitude, High-Speed Reconnaissance Aircraft
The SR-71 maintained an excellent operational service record during its Cold War tenure, though a dozen were lost to accidents.
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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.