Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
SR-71 "Blackbird"
Dryden's SR-71B Blackbird, NASA 831, slices across the snow-covered southern Sierra Nevada Mountains of California after being refueled by an Air Force tanker during a 1994 flight. SR-71B was the trainer version of the SR-71. The dual cockpit to allow the instructor to fly.
An SR-71B trainer over the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California in 1994. The raised second cockpit is for the instructor.
Role Strategic reconnaissance aircraft
National origin United States
Manufacturer Lockheed, Skunk Works division
Designer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson
First flight 22 December 1964
Introduction January 1966
Retired 1998 (USAF), 1999 (NASA)
Status Retired
Primary users United States Air Force
Number built 32
Unit cost
$34 million[1]
Developed from Lockheed A-12

The SR-71 Blackbird is a supersonic reconnaissance aircraft. It was built by Lockheed's "Skunk Works" in the 1960s for the United States Air Force (USAF). In other words, it was a spy plane.

Design[change | change source]

The Blackbird was designed to fly at more than Mach 3 – three times the speed of sound. This meant it would become very hot during flight. To help with this, most of the aircraft was made of titanium. Radar absorbing material was also used to make the aircraft more difficult to detect.

SR-71 Blackbird used a special fuel called JP-7. Before the flight, the fuel tanks used to leak. This is because at ground altitude the tolerances (distance between parts of the fuel tank) were larger than at the plane's cruising altitude. Once in the air, because of the speed and air resistance, the parts became very hot. Because of this heat, the distance between the parts shrank stopping the loss of fuel.[2]

The aircraft also had cameras and radars fitted to take photographs of targets.

History[change | change source]

The first Blackbird flight happened on December 22, 1964 in Palmdale, California. In January 1966, the first aircraft entered service with the USAF. No aircraft were lost in war but one crashed in an accident in 1969. Only 32 aircraft were built. Its final flight was on March 6, 1990, Blackbird S/N 61-7972. The SR-71 program was retired from service in 1998.

Records[change | change source]

The aircraft flew at an altitude of over 80,000 feet (24,000 m) and at speeds over 2,190 miles per hour (3,520 km/h). It held the world record for the jet-powered flight, flying at Mach 3.2.[3] The record was broken in March 2004 by NASA's X-43A aircraft.

Specification[change | change source]

The SR-71 Blackbird had two crew members. It could carry 3,500 lb (1,600 kg) of equipment.

Technical data (SR-71A)[change | change source]

Data Units
Years of production 1960-1978
Manufacturer Lockheed
Constructor: Kelly Johnson
Wingspan 16,94 m
Length 32,74 m
Hight 5,64 m
Wing area 167,22 m²
Weight (empty) 27.216 kg
Max takeoff weight 77.110 kg
Crew 2
Speed 3220 km/h
Service ceiling 25.900 m
Range 4.800 km
Powerplant 2x Pratt & Whitney J58
Power 2x 14.750 kp

References[change | change source]

  1. Edwards, Owen (July 2009). "The Ultimate Spy Plane". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 2017-11-27. The 32 Blackbirds cost an average of $34 million each.
  2. sr-71.org
  3. "Q&A: Nasa's jet speed record". BBC News. 2004-11-17. Retrieved 2009-09-02.