Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird (USA)

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird military stealth aircraft Skunkworks at Castle Air Museum, Atwater and Merced in the California's Central Valley.


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United States
Lockheed Aircraft Company
2 Crew
2 - Pratt & Whitney J-58 Turbojet engines with 32,500 lbs. of thrust each
Mach 3+ (over 2,350 mph)
Over 16 mi. (88,000+ ft.)
2,900 mi.
Empty: 65,000 lbs.
Maximum: 172,000 lbs.
55 ft. 7 in.
107 ft. 5 in.
18 ft. 6 in.
1,800 ft²
1 - NASA

No aircraft is probably more recognizable than the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. Much of the history and capabilities of the Blackbird remain shrouded in mystery, but what has emerged makes this one of the most fascinating aircraft ever flown.

The Blackbird evolved from an earlier aircraft, known as the A-12. The A-12 was flown by the CIA and was almost identical to the SR-71, except that it was a single seat version. The SR-71 was developed by Lockheed's " Skunk Works" in the early 60's by key designer and pilot, the legendary Clarence "Kelly" Johnson. The first aircraft was delivered to SAC in 1964.

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird military stealth aircraft landing at Castle Air Museum in Atwater.

The SR-71's mission was reconnaissance and it carried no armament. It filled its role exceedingly well and, from 1964 until 1990, played a vital role in protecting our nation's security. In any crisis, anywhere in the world and at any time, the crews and maintainers of the Blackbird supported missions directed by the highest levels of our nation's government. To this end, SR-71's were based at Beale Air Force Base, California and at two forward operating locations in Okinawa and the United Kingdom.

Made of Titanium, the SR-71 fuselage heats to 500 degrees during flight and elongates 6 inches. The SR-71 was capable of speeds of over three times the speed of sound and altitudes of over 85,000 feet, but these are just the published figures. The actual performance was greater in both categories. There were 32 SR-71's built and in 26 years of service, no aircraft was ever lost to hostile fire, despite the fact that they were shot at over 1,000 times.

Due to U. S. Government budgetary cutbacks in military spending, the end to most Communist threats in Eastern Europe, and advancements in satellite reconnaissance, the SR-71 was retired in 1990. At this time, three aircraft were delivered to NASA for high altitude experiments. The most notable was one SR-71 that was delivered to the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. that recorded the flight from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. in 68 minutes.

The aircraft on display at Castle, flew the most operational missions of any SR-71 and was the first to fly over Vietnam. It also flew photo reconnaissance support of Operation El Dorado Canyon, the April 1986 raid on Libya.