The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3+ strategic reconnaissance aircraft. It was developed as a black project from the Lockheed A-12 reconnaissance aircraft in the 1960s by the Lockheed Skunk Works.
Clarence Kelly Johnson was responsible for many of the design's innovative concepts. During reconnaissance missions the SR-71 operated at high speeds and altitudes to allow it to outrace threats. If a surface-to-air missile launch was detected, the standard evasive action was simply to accelerate and outrun the missile.
The SR-71 served with the U.S. Air Force from 1964 to 1998. Although 12 of the 32 aircraft built were destroyed in accidents, none were lost to enemy action. The SR-71 was unofficially named the Blackbird, and called the Habu by its crews, referring to an Okinawan species of pit viper. Since 1976, it has held the world record for the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft
The SR-71 Blackbird, even today, after four decades, it stands as the fastest manned reconnaissance aircraft. The plane was first flown on December 22, 1964, and was able to enter service in January 1966. U-2 reconnaissance airplane was highly susceptible to Soviet air defenses due to its speed and ability to claim to higher altitudes thus making SR-71 a must have, as it was able to fly at speeds of mach 3.2 or more and was much faster and was equipped with capabilities to escape attacks.
The plane was never downed by an enemy. Rather out of, ever made, 32 SR-71 aircrafts only 12 were destroyed in accidents. The plane was painted with a new technology paint that did not allow it to be easily recognized with radar. The overall shape of the plane also made it one of the first stealth-technology airplanes.
A particularly difficult issue with flight at over Mach 3 is the high temperatures generated. As an aircraft moves through the air at supersonic speed, the air in front of the aircraft is compressed into a supersonic shock wave, and the energy generated by this heats the airframe. To address this problem, high-temperature materials were needed, and the airframe of the SR-71 was substantially made of titanium, obtained from the USSR at the height of the Cold War.
Lockheed used many guises to prevent the Soviet government from knowing what the titanium was to be used for. In order to control costs, Lockheed used a more easily worked alloy of titanium which softened at a lower temperature. Finished aircraft were painted a dark blue, almost black to increase the emission of internal heat (fuel acted as a heat sink for avionics cooling) and to act as camouflage against the night sky. The aircraft was designed to minimize its radar cross-section, an early attempt at stealth design. The aircraft's call sign was Blackbird, because of its dark color.
Today SR-71 is not found flying amongst the clouds. Instead, more than likely it can be found in a museum, or if work for Lockheed in Palmdale then can find three of them locked away. It can also be found at Air Force bases in Tucson, Arizona; Edwards Air Force Base in California; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Eglin Air Force Base in Florida; as well as various museums in California, England, Ashland, Nebraska, Ohio, Utah, and Virginia.
The SR-71 was permanently retired in 1998 when it became clear to Congress and the U.S. Air Force that the plane was highly expensive to maintain and operate. Despite being retired for the first time in 1991, Congress decided to reactivate a small fleet to be used because of its much use during the Cold War.
SR-71 had all the amazing qualities like an advanced radar system and a data link able to send out real time images, still it was grounded in 1998 for good.
The Pratt & Whitney J58-P4 engines used in the Blackbird were the only American engines designed to operate continuously on afterburner, and became more efficient as speed increased. Each J58 engine could produce 32,500 lbf (145 kN) of static thrust.
The J58 was unique in that it was a hybrid jet engine. It could operate as a regular turbojet at low speeds, but at high speeds it became a ramjet. The engine can be thought of as a turbojet engine inside a ramjet engine.
At lower speeds, the turbojet provided most of the compression and most of the energy from fuel combustion. At higher speeds, the turbojet throttled back and sat in the middle of the engine as air passed around it, having been compressed by the shock cones and only burning fuel in the afterburner.
Original capabilities for the SR-71 included optical/infrared imagery systems, side-looking airborne radar (SLAR), electronic intelligence (ELINT) gathering systems, defensive systems (for countering missile and airborne fighter threats) and recorders for SLAR, ELINT and maintenance data.
In the later years of its operational life, a data-link system was added that would allow ASARS-1 and ELINT data from about 2,000 nmi (3,700 km) of track coverage to be downlinked if the SR-71 was within "contact" with a mutually equipped ground station.
- Crew: 2
- Payload: 3,500 lb (1,600 kg) of sensors
- Length: 107 ft 5 in (32.74 m)
- Wingspan: 55 ft 7 in (16.94 m)
- Height: 18 ft 6 in (5.64 m)
- Wing area: 1,800 ft2 (170 m²)
- Empty weight: 67,500 lb (30,600 kg)
- Loaded weight: 152,000 lb (69,000 kg)
- Max takeoff weight: 172,000 lb (78,000 kg)
- Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney J58-1 continuous-bleed afterburning turbojets, 34,000 lbf (151 kN) each
- Wheel track: 16 ft 8 in (5.08 m)
- Wheelbase: 37 ft 10 in (11.53 m)
- Aspect ratio: 1.7
- Maximum speed: Mach 3.3 (2,200+ mph, 3,530+ km/h, 1,900+ knots) at 80,000 ft (24,000 m)
- Range: 2,900 nmi (5,400 km)
- Ferry range: 3,200 nmi (5,925 km)
- Service ceiling: 85,000 ft (25,900 m)
- Rate of climb: 11,810 ft/min (60 m/s)
- Wing loading: 84 lb/ft² (410 kg/m²)
- Thrust/weight: 0.44
Much speculation exists regarding a replacement for the SR-71, most notably aircraft identified as the Aurora. This is due to limitations of spy satellites, which are governed by the laws of orbital mechanics. It may take 24 hours before a satellite is in proper orbit to photograph a particular target, far longer than a reconnaissance plane. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are also used for much aerial reconnaissance in the 2000s. They have the advantage of being able to overfly hostile territory without putting human pilots at risk.
Source from Wikipedia