The SR-71 Blackbird is one of the most iconic military aircraft in the U.S. arsenal. It was once the fastest plane in the world before being surpassed by North American Aviation X-15. However, it is still a testament to the engineering of the cold war era.
Military aviation has come a long way since the cold war era. However, the SR-71 still holds the world record set in 1976 as the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft. Unfortunately, the aircraft had a short service period, but it still distinguished itself as a reconnaissance aircraft during a tumultuous period.
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The SR-71 Blackbird was developed in secrecy in the 1950s after the Soviet Union shot down the legendary U-2 spy plane. The aircraft was the successor to the Lockheed A-12 reconnaissance aircraft with a slightly longer body, heavier fuel capacity, and camera load.
The reconnaissance aircraft could fly at three times the speed of sound. During its missions, the SR-71 Blackbird operated at high altitudes at Mach 3.2 speed. It also has a record for flying at an altitude of 85,069 feet with a top speed of 2193 mph. Comparatively, most modern combat aircraft, like the F-22, can only reach up to 1500 mph.
Due to its speed, the aircraft could even outrun a missile. In 1981, Kelly Johnson, the designer of the aircraft, announced that the SR-71 managed to outpace 1000 missiles launched at it. Its speed remained its best defense, as it could outpace any surface-to-air missile easily.
During its service, none of the 32 SR-71s were hit by an enemy missile, even though many attempts were made. Not only the SR-71 has helped the U.S. army in operations in Libya and Vietnam, but it has also been used by NASA. The plane played a key role in helping NASA’s research on how to rebuild earth’s Ozone layer.
The pilots had to wear pressurized suits similar to space suits due to high speed and altitude. An unmanned variant of the SR-71 Blackbird is also under development and scheduled to fly in 2025. Let us know your thoughts on the SR-71 Blackbird in the comment section below.
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