What was the SR-71 used for?
The SR-71 was developed post-WWII, when Soviet surveillance and reconnaissance was in high demand. The aircraft was requested by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), who was seeking a plane that would be less vulnerable to enemy attack. The U-2 was initially developed, followed by the A-12 and finally the Lockheed SR-71, which also fulfilled a request from the US Air Force (AF) for a high-altitude interceptor aircraft that could fly long ranges at triple Mach speed.
What was the top speed of the SR-71 Blackbird?
The Blackbird holds the record as the world’s fastest stealth aircraft, with a max speed of Mach 3.3 at 2,193 miles per hour.
What made the SR-71 so fast?
The SR-71 Blackbird features Pratt & Whitney J58 engines designed to operate continuously in afterburner, which is when fuel is added to the aircraft exhaust to increase speed. This allowed the SR-71 to cruise at supersonic speed. The airframe was purpose-built for extreme speeds, with air-inlet “spikes” that retracted into the engine to reduce the speed of incoming air and keep the internal engine air pressure at a constant. Also, the stealth design of the Blackbird reduced its radar signature, allowing the airframe to use speed to evade attack.
Why did they retire the SR-71 Blackbird?
The USAF officially retired the SR-71 in 1989, primarily for political reasons at the end of the Cold War. It was briefly reactivated in the 1990s after proponents of the SR-71 demanded its return to service. Although Congress allocated $100 million to return three to service, they were grounded again in 1996 and fully retired in 1999 when the remaining aircraft were transferred to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Is the SR-71 Blackbird the fastest plane in the world?
Although the A-12 Oxcart (developed for the CIA) could fly faster, the SR-71 is the official record holder for speed. This legendary aircraft holds four speed records, including a record-setting, coast-to-coast flight of 2,404 miles in 68:17.
Special Note: the Blackbird holds the record for the World’s fastest, piloted, production aircraft. The X-15—a piloted, experimental aircraft—hit Mach 6.70 (or about 5,140 mph). Meanwhile the X-43—an unmanned test aircraft—hit Mach 9.8 (or about 7,519 mph) in 2004. Now that’s some speed!
How high can the SR-71 Blackbird Fly?
The SR-71 could reach altitudes of 85,000 feet––about 16 miles above earth––and cruise just above Mach 3 speed. This enabled the Blackbird to cover more than 100,000 square miles in about one hour. The record for sustained altitude in horizontal flight is 85,069 feet at 2,193.2 miles per hour (Mach 3.3).
How long can the SR-71 operate before it needs refueling?
The SR-71 Blackbird can fly 2,500 miles without refueling.
Are SR-71 Blackbirds still in use?
Today, fifteen of the remaining SR-71s are in museums across the US. Lockheed retains ownership of three aircraft and NASA retains three more for high-speed, high-altitude, aeronautical research. Of the thirty-three SR-71s built, twelve were lost in accidents, but not a single Blackbird was ever lost to enemy fire.
What was it like to fly the SR-71?
The SR-71 crew included a pilot and a reconnaissance systems officer. Retired Air Force Colonel Joe Kinego reported a lack of sensation while flying: “The only sensation of speed is looking at your gauges and seeing the miles clicking by as fast as they are.”