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SR Blackbird

Updated on May 16, 2013

The Blackbird

The Lockheed long range reconaisence aircraft was nicknamed or code name the Blackbird. This was a plane that was well ahead of its time and in a situation were the government needed something from its military manufacturers Lockheed pulled through. The plane was derived from a couple of previous incarnations the main one being the A12 which was developed by the Skunk Works department of Lockheed Martin.

The SR 71 Blackbird was developed in the early 60's and was far ahead of its time. This plane was built to be a plane that flew high and fast into enemy territory to collect images and it did just that. When it came to actually being manufactured and put into service this did not happen until around 1964 and the plane was in service all the way till 1998.

12 out of 34 Blackbirds were destroyed but there was not one that was shot down or destroyed in enemy territory. Powered By 2 Pratt &Whitney engines the Blackbird could fly well over mach 3 and this made the airplane notorious behind enemy lines because of the way it could literary outrun some missile systems. When it comes to actually making the stealthy at this speed there was no way that this thing would not show up on radar systems the plane was so red hot you could see it 100 miles away.


The SR 71 Blackbird a two seater , at the time contained some very top secret stuff, as this was the time of the Cold War there was a lot of hush hush material buying going on. This was to build the aircrafts, these are built mostly from titanium. Now to actually buy all this titanium and not raise suspicion Lockheed made sure they bought from different people and kept their records secret.

At Mach 3 the plane is actually going so fast that the tip of the nose it creating a supersonic shockwave. In terms of aerodynamics this is a nightmare, but the worse problem is that this causes friction between the plane and the surrounding air. This air makes the plane plane hot up to about two 250c which as you can imagine brings a lot of factors in as problems. The pilots had to get special pressurised and cooled suits, they had to pressurise and cool the plane both outside and inside amongst other things. After hearing this you would think now why would they paint the SR black , this will only increase heat. The answer is yes it will increase heat but this plane grew 2 ft in the air at mission speed. This was because they realised that the plane would expand as the plane was under heat and at those speeds. When the plane is on the ground it actually leaks fuel because all the panels do not connect correctly.

Now because the plane did not want to be detected there were many efforts made to make sure that they made it as they could to do this. The plane for its size has a small radar cross section, the materials used are radar absorbing and flying at 80,000 feet the plane was so high no one could actually get a picture for years and years to see what they where trying to intercept. I thinking on this project did actually trade stealth for speed because in actuality they did not make this stealthy at all the heat signature always alerted radar systems. Although jets were scramble and anti air missiles fired never was one lost behind enemy line because of it speed.

Even with the pressurisation problems and the heating problems and cooling alike in 64 this was a plane well ahead of its time. This is why I am not surprised it was in service for so long and when it comes to records well it holds five. This plane is no doubt a true engineering achievement.



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    • SandyMcCollum profile image


      8 years ago

      The article is very interesting, and the part about them growing when heated amazed me. It's a little hard to read because your sentence structure needs some work, but it's a good piece, worth correcting. Good luck and happy hubbing!


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