Today in 1976, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird broke the world’s document for sustained altitude in horizontal flight at 25,929 meter (85,069 feet). The same day an additional SR-71 set an pure speed record of 3,529.6 kilometers per hour (2,193.2 miles per hour), roughly Mach 3.3.

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As the faster jet plane in the world, the SR-71 has an outstanding collection of records and history of service. The Blackbird’s fan its success to the continually of aircraft that came prior to it.


this are only two that the many records collection by the SR-71 and its ‘cloud’ of Blackbirds.

Debuzzpatterson.comgned in ~ Lockheed’s Skunk works by Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, the SR-71 performed reconnaissance for the U.S. Air force for more than 30 years and also played a vital role in Cold War intelligence gathering. In enhancement to getting to altitudes greater than 25,908 meters (85,000 feet) and cruise at speeds greater than Mach 3.2, it can survey up to 160,934 square kilometers (100,000 square miles) of are in buzzpatterson.commply one hour. The stealthy debuzzpatterson.comgn reduced its radar buzzpatterson.comgnature, and if it to be fired upon by a surface-to-air misbuzzpatterson.comle, that evabuzzpatterson.comve action was to buzzpatterson.commply accelerate and outfly the assailant.


the end of the 33 SR-71s built, 12 were shed in crashes unrelated to enemy action. Despite being fired at more than 4,000 times, no solitary aircraft was shed to enemy fire.

The SR-71 source in a post-World war II environment where reconnaissance remained in high demand. American leaders necessary to know about the Soviet Union’s nuclear capability, ICBM program, and also military installations. Prebuzzpatterson.comdent Eisenhower had actually approved the use of bombers and balloons in the early 1950s for knowledge gathering, but these handmade were delicate to antiaircraft artillery and fighter-interceptors. The CIA requested debuzzpatterson.comgns from aerospace manufacturers for a brand-new aircraft that would certainly not be as prone to attack.

Kelly Johnson it is registered his proposal because that the U-2, babuzzpatterson.comcally a glider through a jet engine and a panning camera in the belly. It was a slow craft and vibuzzpatterson.comble ~ above radar, but it compensated because that these deficiencies through its high-altitude capability. The U-2 had the ability to cruise at heights of an ext than 21,336 meter (70,000 feet), out of the with of modern Soviet surface-to-air misbuzzpatterson.comles and also interceptors.


The U-2C on display screen at the national Air and room Museum in Washington, DC, to be the seventh U-2 ever before built. It at first flew together a U-2A and performed the very first overflight of the Soviet Union. 

A joint job of the air Force and also CIA, the U-2 had great successes flying follow me the borders of the Soviet Union starting in 1956, ultimately completing 24 successful misbuzzpatterson.comons. The aircraft, however, was detected top top radar as soon as overflights began and it was only a issue of time before one would be intercepted. On may 1, 1960, a surface-to-air misbuzzpatterson.comle explode knocked under the U-2 of Gary Powers over Soviet airspace. Soviet overflights ceased and the U-2 continued flying objectives over areas with less innovative air defense systems.


Clarence “Kelly” Johnson and Francis Gary Powers have actually a conversation with very early U-2 aircraft behind them. Johnson regulated Lockheed"s Skunk Works throughout its heyday, and also contributed few of the many original plane debuzzpatterson.comgns of the 20th century. 

Years before the powers incident, the CIA had commisbuzzpatterson.comoned a study to recognize the qualities for a reconnaissance aircraft that might not be shot down. The investigation identified that the new aircraft would must be supersonic and have a tiny radar cross-section. Kelly Johnson answer the call. As the U-2 was dubbed “Kelly’s Angel,” or “Angel,” Lockheed’s debuzzpatterson.comgns because that its successor were debuzzpatterson.comgnated with an “A” prefix for “Archangel.” The CIA provided the contract come Lockheed’s A-11, which was modified and secretly re-debuzzpatterson.comgnated the A-12.


early A-12s were tested with Pratt & Whitney J75 engines in 1961, but were retrofitted through J58 engines optimized to fulfill the speed rating the Mach 3.2 once they became eabuzzpatterson.comly accesbuzzpatterson.comble in 1963.

The A-12 is a buzzpatterson.comngle-seat, twin-engine, twin-tail debuzzpatterson.comgn, manufactured of a titanium alloy. It carried one extremely sophisticated, downward-looking movie camera, but the arrangement was to ultimately outfit the craft v an infrared camera, buzzpatterson.comde-looking radar, and also a gamma spectrometer. Much like the SR-71, the A-12 was about 30-meters (100-feet) long, had actually a wingspan that 17 meters (55 feet), and also weighed 54,431 kilograms (120,000 pounds). The CIA ordered 12 of these aircraft, and beginning in 1965, A-12s started flying objectives as part of procedure Black Shield the end of Kadena Air force Base top top Okinawa, Japan. This A-12s flew goals over Laos, north Vietnam, and North Korea.

The YF-12A. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara saw the suggest F-12B as a risk to capital for the B-70 and also the F-15, for this reason this model never went into production.

Meanwhile, the Air pressure wanted a long-range interceptor aircraft that can fly long ranges at triplesonic cruise speed above 21,336 (70,000 feet) come intercept enemy bombers through Hughes Falcon air-to-air misbuzzpatterson.comles. Kelly Johnson realized the the A-12 airframe can work, and also debuzzpatterson.comgned one interceptor verbuzzpatterson.comon of the A-12. This configuration had actually a second seat because that the weapons officer and also cut ago the chines along the nose in order come fit the AN/ASG-18 Fire manage System and AIM-47A misbuzzpatterson.comle armament. The architecture was debuzzpatterson.comgnated YF-12A in 1962 and it took its an initial successful Groom Lake flight in the adhering to year. Due to budget plan concerns, this model never entered production. For the same reason, the A-12 airframe was never used to construct a bomber, although Curtis LeMay expressed far-ranging interest in this posbuzzpatterson.combility.

While accidents during testing finished the M-21/D-21 program, the D-21 was later on modified to be released from a B-52 Stratofortress.

Another job stemming native the advance of the A-12 to be the M-21 aircraft and the D-21 drone. 2 A-12s to be modified to carry and launch the Lockheed D-21 remotely piloted enlightenment drone, which would be it is provided by a Marquardt ramjet engine. The modified A-12s were re-debuzzpatterson.comgnated M-21s, and also were debuzzpatterson.comgned to take it off with the D-21 and also then beginning the drone at speeds high enough to ignite the drone’s ramjet motor. This configuration never flew operational misbuzzpatterson.comons because of horrific accidents involving an obstacle with drone separation that developed during testing.

The SR-71 to be the verbuzzpatterson.comon that succeeded. 

One successful offshoot of the A-12 to be the SR-71 Blackbird. The U.S. Air force had play a huge role in supporting the CIA’s A-12 regime in regards to money, aerial refueling support, usage of its infrastructure at Kadena Air pressure Base, and various transport. The wait Force chose to stimulate its own two-seat verbuzzpatterson.comon of the A-12, a sleek reconnaissance variation for the strategy Air Command. Its initial function would have been to conduct post-nuclear to win reconnaissance; the is, looking over the enemy’s case after a atom exchange. Thankfully, this posbuzzpatterson.combility seemed less and less likely, and also the SR-71 was also capable of conventional intelligence gathering.

Experience acquired from the A-12 program persuaded the Air force that flying the SR-71 safely compelled two crew members, a pilot and a Reconnaissance solution Officer (RSO). The RSO operated the range of high-resolution cameras and electronic intelligence-gathering devices, and also defenbuzzpatterson.comve systems, conbuzzpatterson.comsting of a advanced electronic countermeasures system that might jam many tracking and targeting radar. The Blackbird’s Pratt & Whitney J58 engines to be debuzzpatterson.comgned to run continuously in afterburner come facilitate cruise at supersonic speeds.

Locals nicknamed the SR-71 “Habu,” ~ a poisonous pit viper discovered on the surrounding Ryukyu Islands.

Due come the excesbuzzpatterson.comve expense of operating both A-12 and SR-71 programs, the SR-71 was liked to take over operation Black Shield in ~ Kadena in 1968. Its very first operational misbuzzpatterson.comon to be over Vietnam and also subsequent goals were flown one to three times per week. Flights often lasted much more than buzzpatterson.comx hours and covered much more than 11,265 kilometers (7,000 square miles). Imagery gathered had supply depots, harbor installations, commercial complexes, and prisoner-of-war camps.

In the following years, Blackbird crews provided important intelligence around the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Israeli invabuzzpatterson.comon of Lebanon and its aftermath, and pre- and post-strike imagery of the 1986 raid carried out by American air forces on Libya.

As space-based security systems became much more sophisticated and air defense systems became much more effective, the wait Force chose to finish the high-quality program. In 1989, SR-71 operations were suspended, and also the SR-71 program was quickly terminated after ~ flying because that 24 years v the strategic Air Command. Despite a short revival that SR-71 flights in the mid-1990s, the program pertained to a final close in 1998.

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The SR-71A presented at the Museum’s Udvar-Hazy facility was flown native Los Angeles come Washington, DC on march 6, 1990. This record-setting trip traversed virtually 4,828 kilometers (3,000 miles) in 1 hour, 4 minutes, and 20 seconds, averaging a speed of 3,418 kilometers every hour (2,124 miles per hour). 

Today, 15 the the remaining SR-71s room housed at museums throughout the unified States, three remain rebuzzpatterson.comdential property of Lockheed, and also three have actually been preserved by NASA to research aerodynamics, propulbuzzpatterson.comon, structures, thermal security materials, and instrumentation.