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Lockheed SR-71 (Blackbird)


High-Altitude, High-Speed Reconnaissance Aircraft


United States | 1966



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



Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 04/27/2021 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
Flag of Image from the United States Department of Defense imagery database.
Firepower
Performance
Survivability
Versatility
Impact
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.

For a more in-depth look into the SR-71 including performance figures, imagery, and fleet history, visit SR71blackbird.org.

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Cockpit
While traditional jobs involve workstations, office desks, or cubicles, aircraft provide operators with their own unique, ever-changing view of the world below.
Cockpit image
[ Click to Enlarge ]
Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Lockheed SR-71A High-Altitude, High-Speed Reconnaissance Aircraft.
2 x Pratt & Whitney J58-1 continuous-bleed, afterburning turbo-ramjets developing 32,500 lb of thrust with reheat.
Propulsion
2,274 mph
3,660 kph | 1,976 kts
Max Speed
85,007 ft
25,910 m | 16 miles
Service Ceiling
3,682 miles
5,925 km | 3,199 nm
Operational Range
11,820 ft/min
3,603 m/min
Rate-of-Climb
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Structure
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Lockheed SR-71A High-Altitude, High-Speed Reconnaissance Aircraft.
2
(MANNED)
Crew
107.4 ft
32.74 m
O/A Length
55.6 ft
(16.94 m)
O/A Width
18.5 ft
(5.64 m)
O/A Height
67,506 lb
(30,620 kg)
Empty Weight
172,005 lb
(78,020 kg)
MTOW
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected below are altitude, speed, and range. The more full the box, the more balanced the design.
RANGE
ALT
SPEED
Armament
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Lockheed SR-71 (Blackbird) High-Altitude, High-Speed Reconnaissance Aircraft .
None. Internal provisioning limited to reconnaissance and surveillance equipment.
Variants
Notable series variants as part of the Lockheed SR-71 (Blackbird) family line.
SR-71 - Base Series Designation, "Blackbird" name being unofficial.
A-12 - Precursor reconnaissance platform to the SR-71.
M-21 - A-12 with DB-21 autonomous surveillance drone mounted atop SR-71 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 with elevated instructor's cockpit; 2 examples produced.
SR-71C - Conversion involving surviving aft-section of an ill-fated YF-12 with SR-71 forward section; single example completed.
Operators
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Lockheed SR-71 (Blackbird). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 32 Units

Contractor(s): Lockheed Skunkworks, Lockheed Corporation - USA
National flag of the United States

[ United States (retired) ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 5000mph
Lo: 2500mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (2,274mph).

Graph Average of 3,750 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Production Comparison
32
36183
44000
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
MACH Regime (Sonic)
Sub
Trans
Super
Hyper
HiHyper
ReEntry
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
EarlyYrs
WWI
Interwar
WWII
ColdWar
Postwar
Modern
Future
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Image of the Lockheed SR-71 (Blackbird)
Image from the United States Department of Defense imagery database.
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Image of the Lockheed SR-71 (Blackbird)
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Image of the Lockheed SR-71 (Blackbird)
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Image of the Lockheed SR-71 (Blackbird)
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Image of the Lockheed SR-71 (Blackbird)
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Image of the Lockheed SR-71 (Blackbird)
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Image of the Lockheed SR-71 (Blackbird)
Image from the United States Department of Defense imagery database.
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Image of the Lockheed SR-71 (Blackbird)
Image from the United States Department of Defense imagery database.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
RECONNAISSANCE
SPECIAL FORCES
Recognition
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Similar
Developments of similar form-and-function, or related, to the Lockheed SR-71 (Blackbird) High-Altitude, High-Speed Reconnaissance Aircraft.
Going Further...
The Lockheed SR-71 (Blackbird) High-Altitude, High-Speed Reconnaissance Aircraft appears in the following collections:
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