Lockheed SR-71

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird: Air to air three-quarter-front view of a 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing SR-71 Black Bird as it approaches a tanker for refueling.

The B-71 designation was used briefly during the development of proposed fighter and (reconnaissance) bomber versions of the Lockheed A-12. The fighter version became the YF-12A, but the bomber version never materialized. A strategic reconnaissance version was built, which kept the bomber sequence number but dropped the bomber designation in favor of the one-of-a-kind SR designation (strategic reconnaissance). The museum has an SR-71A (S/N 61-7976) on display in its Cold War Gallery and a YF-12A (S/N 60-6935) on display in its Research and Development/Flight Test Gallery.

The SR-71, unofficially known as the "Blackbird," is a long-range, advanced, strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft. The first flight of an SR-71 took place on Dec. 22, 1964, and the first SR-71 to enter service was delivered to the 4200th (later 9th) Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., in January 1966. The USAF retired its fleet of SR-71s on Jan. 26, 1990, because of a decreasing defense budget and high costs of operation. The USAF returned the SR-71 to the active Air Force inventory in 1995 and began flying operational missions in January 1997. The aircraft was retired again in 1998.

Throughout its nearly 24-year career, the SR-71 remained the world's fastest and highest-flying operational aircraft. From 80,000 feet, it could survey 100,000 square miles of Earth's surface per hour. On July 28, 1976, an SR-71 set two world records for its class: an absolute speed record of 2,193.167 miles per hour and an absolute altitude record of 85,068.997 feet.

Serial number: SR-71A: 61-7950 to 61-7955; 61-7958 to 61-7980; SR-71B: 61-7956 and 61-7957; SR-71C: 61-7981

Specifications:
Span: 55 ft. 7 in.

Length: 107 ft. 5 in.

Height: 18 ft. 6 in.

Weight: 170,000 lbs. loaded

Armament: None

Engines: Two Pratt & Whitney J58s of 32,500 lbs. thrust each with afterburner

Crew: Two

Performance:
Maximum speed: Plus 2,000 mph

Range: Plus 2,900 miles

Service ceiling: Plus 85,000 ft.

Source: US Air Force

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird: A view of an SR-71 Blackbird aircraft in flight. The aircraft, from the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, will be refueled by a KC-10 Extender aircrft during testing.
Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird: A view of an SR-71 Blackbird aircraft in flight. The aircraft, from the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, will be refueled by a KC-10 Extender aircrft during testing.

Detailed background:
Source: wikipedia.org

The Lockheed SR-71 was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3 strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft by the Lockheed Skunk Works. The SR-71 was unofficially named the Blackbird, and called the Habu by its crews. Clarence "Kelly" Johnson was responsible for many of the design's innovative concepts. A defensive feature of the aircraft was its high speed and operating altitude, whereby, if a surface-to-air missile launch were detected, standard evasive action was simply to accelerate. The SR-71 line was in service from 1964 to 1998, with 12 of the 32 aircraft being destroyed in accidents, though none were lost to enemy action.

Development
Predecessors
The A-12 OXCART, designed for the CIA by Clarence Johnson at the Lockheed Skunk Works, was the precursor of the SR-71. Lockheed used the name "Archangel" for this design, but many documents use Johnson's preferred name for the aircraft, "the Article". As the design evolved, the internal Lockheed designation progressed from A-1 to A-12 as configuration changes occurred, such as substantial design changes to reduce the radar cross-section.

The first flight, by an A-12 known as "Article 121", took place at Groom Lake, Nevada, on 25 April 1962 equipped with the less powerful Pratt & Whitney J75 engines due to protracted development of the intended Pratt & Whitney J58. The J58s were retrofitted as they became available, and became the standard power plant for all subsequent aircraft in the series (A-12, YF-12, M-21) as well as the follow-on SR-71 aircraft.

Eighteen A-12 family aircraft were built. One was a pilot trainer with a raised second cockpit for an Instructor-Pilot and 12 were reconnaissance A-12s to be flown operationally by CIA pilots. Three were YF-12A prototypes of the planned F-12B interceptor version, and two were the M-21 variant.
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