Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird panorama
See a lot more photos of this, and the Wikipedia report.
No reconnaissance aircraft in history has operated globally in more hostile airspace or with such full impunity than the SR-71, the world’s fastest jet-propelled aircraft. The Blackbird’s performance and operational achievements placed it at the pinnacle of aviation technologies developments during the Cold War.
This Blackbird accrued about 2,800 hours of flight time for the duration of 24 years of active service with the U.S. Air Force. On its final flight, March six, 1990, Lt. Col. Ed Yielding and Lt. Col. Joseph Vida set a speed record by flying from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., in 1 hour, four minutes, and 20 seconds, averaging 3,418 kilometers (two,124 miles) per hour. At the flight’s conclusion, they landed at Washington-Dulles International Airport and turned the airplane more than to the Smithsonian.
Transferred from the United States Air Force.
Lockheed Aircraft Corporation
Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson
Country of Origin:
United States of America
Overall: 18ft five 15/16in. x 55ft 7in. x 107ft 5in., 169998.5lb. (5.638m x 16.942m x 32.741m, 77110.8kg)
Other: 18ft five 15/16in. x 107ft 5in. x 55ft 7in. (5.638m x 32.741m x 16.942m)
Twin-engine, two-seat, supersonic strategic reconnaissance aircraft airframe constructed largley of titanium and its alloys vertical tail fins are constructed of a composite (laminated plastic-variety material) to reduce radar cross-section Pratt and Whitney J58 (JT11D-20B) turbojet engines feature large inlet shock cones.
No reconnaissance aircraft in history has operated in a lot more hostile airspace or with such total impunity than the SR-71 Blackbird. It is the fastest aircraft propelled by air-breathing engines. The Blackbird’s efficiency and operational achievements placed it at the pinnacle of aviation technology developments during the Cold War. The airplane was conceived when tensions with communist Eastern Europe reached levels approaching a complete-blown crisis in the mid-1950s. U.S. military commanders desperately necessary precise assessments of Soviet worldwide military deployments, particularly close to the Iron Curtain. Lockheed Aircraft Corporation’s subsonic U-two (see NASM collection) reconnaissance aircraft was an capable platform but the U. S. Air Force recognized that this fairly slow aircraft was currently vulnerable to Soviet interceptors. They also understood that the rapid development of surface-to-air missile systems could place U-2 pilots at grave threat. The danger proved reality when a U-two was shot down by a surface to air missile more than the Soviet Union in 1960.
Lockheed’s 1st proposal for a new high speed, high altitude, reconnaissance aircraft, to be capable of avoiding interceptors and missiles, centered on a design and style propelled by liquid hydrogen. This proved to be impracticable since of considerable fuel consumption. Lockheed then reconfigured the style for standard fuels. This was feasible and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), already flying the Lockheed U-2, issued a production contract for an aircraft designated the A-12. Lockheed’s clandestine ‘Skunk Works’ division (headed by the gifted style engineer Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson) made the A-12 to cruise at Mach three.2 and fly properly above 18,288 m (60,000 feet). To meet these challenging requirements, Lockheed engineers overcame several daunting technical challenges. Flying a lot more than 3 instances the speed of sound generates 316° C (600° F) temperatures on external aircraft surfaces, which are adequate to melt standard aluminum airframes. The design team chose to make the jet’s external skin of titanium alloy to which shielded the internal aluminum airframe. Two standard, but extremely powerful, afterburning turbine engines propelled this exceptional aircraft. These power plants had to operate across a huge speed envelope in flight, from a takeoff speed of 334 kph (207 mph) to more than three,540 kph (two,200 mph). To avoid supersonic shock waves from moving inside the engine intake causing flameouts, Johnson’s group had to design a complex air intake and bypass program for the engines.
Skunk Works engineers also optimized the A-12 cross-section style to exhibit a low radar profile. Lockheed hoped to accomplish this by cautiously shaping the airframe to reflect as little transmitted radar energy (radio waves) as attainable, and by application of special paint developed to absorb, rather than reflect, those waves. This therapy became 1 of the 1st applications of stealth technologies, but it never ever entirely met the design and style objectives.
Test pilot Lou Schalk flew the single-seat A-12 on April 24, 1962, right after he became airborne accidentally for the duration of high-speed taxi trials. The airplane showed excellent promise but it necessary considerable technical refinement ahead of the CIA could fly the very first operational sortie on Might 31, 1967 – a surveillance flight over North Vietnam. A-12s, flown by CIA pilots, operated as component of the Air Force’s 1129th Special Activities Squadron below the "Oxcart" program. Even though Lockheed continued to refine the A-12, the U. S. Air Force ordered an interceptor version of the aircraft designated the YF-12A. The Skunk Performs, nonetheless, proposed a "specific mission" version configured to conduct post-nuclear strike reconnaissance. This method evolved into the USAF’s familiar SR-71.
Lockheed built fifteen A-12s, such as a unique two-seat trainer version. Two A-12s have been modified to carry a unique reconnaissance drone, designated D-21. The modified A-12s have been redesignated M-21s. These were designed to take off with the D-21 drone, powered by a Marquart ramjet engine mounted on a pylon among the rudders. The M-21 then hauled the drone aloft and launched it at speeds higher sufficient to ignite the drone’s ramjet motor. Lockheed also built three YF-12As but this type never went into production. Two of the YF-12As crashed during testing. Only a single survives and is on show at the USAF Museum in Dayton, Ohio. The aft section of one particular of the "written off" YF-12As which was later utilised along with an SR-71A static test airframe to manufacture the sole SR-71C trainer. One SR-71 was lent to NASA and designated YF-12C. Such as the SR-71C and two SR-71B pilot trainers, Lockheed constructed thirty-two Blackbirds. The initial SR-71 flew on December 22, 1964. Due to the fact of extreme operational charges, military strategists decided that the more capable USAF SR-71s need to replace the CIA’s A-12s. These had been retired in 1968 following only one particular year of operational missions, largely over southeast Asia. The Air Force’s 1st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron (element of the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing) took more than the missions, flying the SR-71 beginning in the spring of 1968.
Following the Air Force started to operate the SR-71, it acquired the official name Blackbird– for the unique black paint that covered the airplane. This paint was formulated to absorb radar signals, to radiate some of the tremendous airframe heat generated by air friction, and to camouflage the aircraft against the dark sky at high altitudes.
Experience gained from the A-12 program convinced the Air Force that flying the SR-71 safely required two crew members, a pilot and a Reconnaissance Systems Officer (RSO). The RSO operated with the wide array of monitoring and defensive systems installed on the airplane. This gear incorporated a sophisticated Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) program that could jam most acquisition and targeting radar. In addition to an array of advanced, higher-resolution cameras, the aircraft could also carry equipment made to record the strength, frequency, and wavelength of signals emitted by communications and sensor devices such as radar. The SR-71 was developed to fly deep into hostile territory, avoiding interception with its tremendous speed and high altitude. It could operate safely at a maximum speed of Mach three.3 at an altitude far more than sixteen miles, or 25,908 m (85,000 ft), above the earth. The crew had to wear pressure suits similar to those worn by astronauts. These suits have been needed to defend the crew in the occasion of sudden cabin stress loss while at operating altitudes.
To climb and cruise at supersonic speeds, the Blackbird’s Pratt & Whitney J-58 engines were developed to operate constantly in afterburner. Although this would seem to dictate higher fuel flows, the Blackbird truly accomplished its ideal "gas mileage," in terms of air nautical miles per pound of fuel burned, for the duration of the Mach 3+ cruise. A standard Blackbird reconnaissance flight may well require many aerial refueling operations from an airborne tanker. Every time the SR-71 refueled, the crew had to descend to the tanker’s altitude, typically about 6,000 m to 9,000 m (20,000 to 30,000 ft), and slow the airplane to subsonic speeds. As velocity decreased, so did frictional heat. This cooling impact triggered the aircraft’s skin panels to shrink significantly, and these covering the fuel tanks contracted so much that fuel leaked, forming a distinctive vapor trail as the tanker topped off the Blackbird. As soon as the tanks were filled, the jet’s crew disconnected from the tanker, relit the afterburners, and once more climbed to high altitude.
Air Force pilots flew the SR-71 from Kadena AB, Japan, throughout its operational career but other bases hosted Blackbird operations, too. The 9th SRW sometimes deployed from Beale AFB, California, to other places to carryout operational missions. Cuban missions had been flown directly from Beale. The SR-71 did not start to operate in Europe until 1974, and then only temporarily. In 1982, when the U.S. Air Force primarily based two aircraft at Royal Air Force Base Mildenhall to fly monitoring mission in Eastern Europe.
When the SR-71 became operational, orbiting reconnaissance satellites had already replaced manned aircraft to gather intelligence from internet sites deep inside Soviet territory. Satellites could not cover each and every geopolitical hotspot so the Blackbird remained a vital tool for international intelligence gathering. On numerous occasions, pilots and RSOs flying the SR-71 offered info that proved essential in formulating effective U. S. foreign policy. Blackbird crews supplied important intelligence about the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and its aftermath, and pre- and post-strike imagery of the 1986 raid carried out by American air forces on Libya. In 1987, Kadena-primarily based SR-71 crews flew a number of missions more than the Persian Gulf, revealing Iranian Silkworm missile batteries that threatened industrial shipping and American escort vessels.
As the efficiency of space-primarily based surveillance systems grew, along with the effectiveness of ground-based air defense networks, the Air Force started to shed enthusiasm for the expensive plan and the 9th SRW ceased SR-71 operations in January 1990. Despite protests by military leaders, Congress revived the program in 1995. Continued wrangling more than operating budgets, nonetheless, quickly led to final termination. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration retained two SR-71As and the 1 SR-71B for high-speed study projects and flew these airplanes until 1999.
On March six, 1990, the service profession of a single Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird ended with a record-setting flight. This unique airplane bore Air Force serial number 64-17972. Lt. Col. Ed Yeilding and his RSO, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Vida, flew this aircraft from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. in 1 hour, 4 minutes, and 20 seconds, averaging a speed of 3,418 kph (2,124 mph). At the conclusion of the flight, ‘972 landed at Dulles International Airport and taxied into the custody of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. At that time, Lt. Col. Vida had logged 1,392.7 hours of flight time in Blackbirds, a lot more than that of any other crewman.
This specific SR-71 was also flown by Tom Alison, a former National Air and Space Museum’s Chief of Collections Management. Flying with Detachment 1 at Kadena Air Force Base, Okinawa, Alison logged more than a dozen ‘972 operational sorties. The aircraft spent twenty-4 years in active Air Force service and accrued a total of 2,801.1 hours of flight time.
Weight: 170,000 Lbs
Reference and Further Reading:
Crickmore, Paul F. Lockheed SR-71: The Secret Missions Exposed. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 1996.
Francillon, Rene J. Lockheed Aircraft Given that 1913. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1987.
Johnson, Clarence L. Kelly: Much more Than My Share of It All. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1985.
Miller, Jay. Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Operates. Leicester, U.K.: Midland Counties Publishing Ltd., 1995.
Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird curatorial file, Aeronautics Division, National Air and Space Museum.
By Chris Devers on 2011-05-24 15:41:39
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