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US military airplane, fastest ever built

Updated on November 14, 2015
Sr 71 Blackbird
Sr 71 Blackbird | Source

SR 71 Blackbird

There are many things in our world that advance to new levels continuously because of advances in technology. One of the reasons that technology keeps advancing so quickly such as with tv, computers, phones, etc, is because of the technology research that goes into developing advancements in military weapons, and aircraft. This is the coolest military aircraft built to date.


The SR 71 Blackbird is the coolest aircraft ever made. The fact that it was designed and built in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s as a reconnaissance plane is amazing. The technology that was used in building this plane is still cutting edge, even 50 years later. The first flight of the SR 71 was December 22 1964, and the first one went into service in January 1966. The reason why I pick this as the number 1, is this aircraft is so far advanced from all other jets, it can fly 12,000 miles without stopping, on the edge of space, at over 2100 mph. This plane can get to any point on the Earth in less than 12 hours.

Avoiding attack

An enemy taking a shot with a missile at the SR 71 would never be able to hit it, the SR 71 would just accelerate and run away from the missile, the plane can fly faster than the missiles. The aircraft is also equipped with radar jamming electronics and was built for stealth to make it very hard to detect. Even with the stealth the SR 71 was shot at over 4000 times in it's years of service and outran all of them.

There are many special things that need to be done to create a plane that can fly as fast and as high as the Blackbird. The plane is made of over 80% titanium for strength and to be able to withstand the over 1000 degree temperatures experienced on the skin of the aircraft. Designing an aircraft that can operate at such extreme conditions was a major task for the Skunkworks division of Lockheed.

Sr 71

More special needs

The high temperature during flight require the plane be constructed with room for the plane panels to expand as they heat up. The plane is fueled just before takeoff because with the expansion room, it leaks fuel until the panels expand. From the video, you can see that the fuel leaks are substantial. They get the plane airborne and get it up to speed to get the panels expanded, then they refuel and are ready to go on the mission.

A total of 32 were built, 12 were lost in accidents over the years, but none were ever shot down. The other 20 are on display in museums around the country. I was lucky enough to see close up the SR 71 at Wright Patterson AFB and museum in Dayton Oh, which if you are in the area and are interested in military aircraft, you should stop in and check out the museum, very cool.

The power plants

The J 58 jet engine was developed for the Martin P6M flying boat, the flying boat was canceled before it was ever built, but the J 58 was a good engine that the air force knew would be good for another plane. The engine is built with inlet spikes that limit the air inflow at supersonic speed. If the air is flowing into the engine too fast, it won't run properly.

The engines put out 32,000 lbs of thrust each and can run on full afterburner for extended periods of time.

The engine lubricant is solid at room temp and had to be preheated before the engines could be started. To start the engines they are hooked up to a start cart with 2 V8 Chevy engines to turn over the J 58 to get it started. The cart would then be wheeled to the other side of the aircraft to start the other engine. All while the JP-7 jet fuel was leaking all over the runway.


High cost

The plane was always controversial because of the high cost of flying and maintaining, but was deemed needed by many because of the ability to get high detailed pictures of any place on Earth within hours.

The cost per hour of flying the SR 71 was in the $35,000 range, not including refueling and other support costs. The cost of the plane in 1966 dollars was 33 million. Very expensive for the time. That cost now is comparable to a little more than 1/2 the cost of a New Gulf stream 550 corporate jet.Although the gulf stream costs around $2,300 per hour to fly.

Many said the high cost of the plane was it's demise. The real reason is that many of the people in the government that were in charge of funding the SR 71, just didn't like it for one reason or another.

Blackbird | Source

Flight records

There are rocket powered aircraft that have flown faster than the SR 71, but no operational jet engine aircraft has flown faster.

Before the final flight the SR 71 set speed records for all aircraft. The Air Force flew one from New York to London, 1 hr 54 min, more than an hour faster than the fastest Concorde flight. You could leave New York city and land in London more than 3 hours before you left New York.

Flew from LA to Washington DC, 64 min.

Kansas City to Washington DC, 25 min.

St Louis to Cincinnati in 8 min 32 sec.

Discovery Channel documentary

End of the era of the SR 71

The Sr was retired in 1990 officially but the Air Force kept a few in service in 1998 and the final flight of the SR 71 was in Oct 1999.

There is has been talk about a replacement for the SR 71. It's not clear of there is going to be one, or if there already is one, it's going to be a hard aircraft to replace.

There are stories about an SR 72 that will fly up to Mach 6 and be able to fly New York to London in less than an hour. It could be ready to fly by 2018. Not sure if it will ever happen because of drones and cost.

The age of the drones has taken over the main job of the SR 71, the drones are cheap in comparison. The latest version of the Predator drone costs in the $12 million range and can get up close and personal with low cost of operation.

Even with satellites all over the place, they sometimes can't get over an area for up to 24 hours, plenty of time for an enemy to do something big that we can't see. A long range reconnaissance aircraft can be a huge asset to see what's going on in remote places. Most military leaders still feel we need an aircraft that can do what the SR did.


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    • spease profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Minneapolis Mn

      It truly is an amazing plane. It would have been a rush to have gotten a flight in one. Not many were lucky enough for that.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      That's a beast looking flight .. really amazing hub with good description of sr71

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 

      4 years ago from Auburn, WA

      Great article. I also wish the USAF would keep long range recon planes. They will always come in handy. The SR 71 was one of this country's greatest technological achievements. Voted up.


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