SR-71 Blackbird

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This article is about the United States reconnaissance jet. For other uses of 'Blackbird', see Blackbird (disambiguation).

The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird was a Mach 3+ reconnaissance aircraft designed by Clarence L "Kelly" Johnson at Lockheed's "Skunk Works" plant in the late 1950s, the Blackbird served until 1989. In 1994, the program was reactivated under NASA, and the aircraft continued to fly until 1999.

Many consider the SR-71 Blackbird to be the finest military aircraft ever produced, and Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara inexplicably ordered destruction of its plans, which prevented further manufacturer of it.[1]

An SR-71 takes off, the excess fuel used by the engine forming "shock diamonds."
An SR-71 on the runway.

Operational History

In 1967 and 1968, SR-71s flew over two dozen reconnaissance missions in support of Operation Rolling Thunder, mostly over North Vietnam, but some flights covered Cambodia and Laos as well.

In the early 1980s, SR-71s from Beale Air Force Base conducted missions over communist Nicaragua.[2]

SR-71s overflew Grenada and gathered information in preparation for the 1983 invasion.[3]

After the bombing of Libya in April 1986 (Operation El Dorado Canyon), two Blackbirds flew a mission to collect post-strike intelligence. It was the first time that two SR-71s flew a joint mission.[4]


Function High-speed, high altitude reconnaissance aircraft
Contractor Lockheed
Power plant Two Pratt & Whitney J58-1 continuous-bleed afterburning turbojets with 32,500 lbf (145 kN) each
Length 107 feet, 6 inches
Height 18 feet, 6 inches
Maximum speed Mach 3.2 at 70,000 ft
Wingspan 55 feet, 7 inches
Empty weight 67,500 pounds
Maximum Weight 172,000 pounds
Crew Two: a pilot and a radar officer
Range 2,900 nautical miles
Ceiling 85,000 feet
Armament None

See also

External links


  2. Nicaragua, 1980-1988
  3. Grenada, 1983: Operation Urgent Fury
  4. Libyan Wars, 1980-1989, Part 5