11 Photos that show why the SR-71 'Blackbird' was all kinds of amazing

When it comes to curb appeal, few airplanes in history can match the look of the SR-71 “Blackbird.” And nothing in the Air Force’s inventory — past or present — can beat its signature performance characteristics. Here are 11 photos that show why the Blackbird remains the standard of aviation cool:

The SR-71 “Blackbird” was a high-speed, high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft developed by Lockheed’s legendary “Skunk Works” team in the 1960s.

800px-A12-flying

(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The Blackbird was capable of speeds exceeding Mach 3.0. The fuselage was designed to expand at high speeds, which caused the airplane to leak fuel on the ground because the panels fit very loosely when jet was parked.

lockheed_sr71_l3

(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The Blackbird’s service ceiling (max altitude) was 85,000 feet, which forced crews to wear pressure suits and astronaut-type helmets.

BuzzCarpenter

SR-71 pilot Col. ‘Buz’ Carpenter. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

SR-71s were manned by two aviators: a pilot and a Reconnaissance Systems Officer who monitored surveillance systems from the rear cockpit.

SR71_crew

(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Only 32 Blackbirds were manufactured, and they were in service from 1964-1998. Despite over 4,000 combat sorties, none of the planes were lost due to enemy fire. However, 12 of them were destroyed in mishaps.

SR-71 fleet

(Photo: Lockheed Martin)

Claustrophobic types need not apply. The narrow space between canopy rails didn’t give crews much room to move around. The outer windscreen of the cockpit was made of quartz and was fused ultrasonically to the titanium frame. The temperature of the exterior of the windscreen reached 600 °F during a mission.

SR-71_Blackbird_aircrew,_Beale_AFB,_CA

Pilot mans the brakes as the SR-71 is towed out of the hangar. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Nothing ‘glass’ about this cockpit. The SR-71 presented the pilot with a dizzying array of steam gauges and switches. And visibility out the front wasn’t the greatest.

SR-71_Blackbird_Cockpit

(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Although not technically a stealth aircraft, the SR-71 was hard for enemy SAM systems to spot because it was designed with a low radar cross section in mind.

sr71_blackbird3

(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Because of its high approach speed the Blackbird used a drag chute to slow down on the runway after touchdown.

SR-71_Landing_with_Drag_Chute

(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Aerial refueling capability allowed the SR-71 to perform long-range, high endurance missions.

Boeing_KC-135Q_refueling_SR-71

SR-71 refueling from a KC-135. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The Blackbird still holds the record for fastest air-breathing manned aircraft (a record it broke in 1976). Although the SR-71 is no longer in service, the legend lives on.

SR-71-2

(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

TOP ARTICLES
SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite

SpaceX is launching a secretive mission this month. The mission, shrouded in secrecy, has some considering it may be for the CIA or the NSA.

This is how the Air Force will use prop planes on high-tech battlefields

The Air Force is looking toward a light-attack aircraft program, known as OA-X, to produce a plane that meets its needs and gets the job done.

A retired SEAL commander on how to stop thinking and 'get after it' every day

This former Navy commander has some excellent advice on how to jump start your day, and "get some" in order to make it as productive as possible.

Marines return to battle in 'old stomping grounds'

The Marines recall their "old stomping grounds" as they return to Fallujah and the surround areas of Al Anbar Province to battle a new enemy.

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market

China has stepped up it's drone game, and even though United States technology can still compete, China's drones are kind of really in demand.

That time two countries' Special Forces squared off in combat

In an area the size of the Falkland Islands, British and Argentine special operators were bound to run into each other at some point – a lot.

5 times pilots got in trouble for having fun in the sky

When pilots decide to do some fancy flying in their high-performance fighters, it can land them in trouble once they're back on the ground.

This is why Nazis dubbed these paratroopers 'devils in baggy pants'

"American paratroopers – devils in baggy pants – are less than 100 meters from my outpost line. I can’t sleep at night," wrote one German commander.

9 ISIS weapon fails that you have to see to believe

Many bad guys just want record themselves laying rounds down range for social media purposes — and we're glad they did. Laugh away, America!

US Army recruitment campaigns, ranked from worst to best

Advertising can really impact recruitment for the military. For better or for worse, here are some of the Army's most memorable slogans...