The paper discusses the SR-71 Blackbird, an aircraft like no other, an aircraft incomparable to those which were made before it. The utility of the aircraft in the Cold War era will be analyzed and its role as a spying machine would be expounded on. It was, in fact, during the era of the Cold War that the deployment of spy aircrafts had exponentially increased. As a result of this, the engineer in the American aircraft industry worked day in and day out to introduce exceedingly advanced versions of airplanes for spying and strategic missions. And one of those many classic productions was the SR-71 surveillance plane. The plane largely known as the “Blackbird” was made by the Lockheed Corporation in the year 1968. In this paper, five published sources have been used to give a deeper glimpse of what the SR-71 Blackbird encompassed.
Keywords: SR-71, Blackbird, Lockheed Corporation
The unparalleled U-2 surveillance aircraft came into being in the year 1955. It was made to operate at very high elevations and remain hoisted in the air for extended periods of time. It was used by the Central Intelligence Agency and the United States Air Force for checking on enemy terrain. After the accident of a U-2 aircraft, the CIA and the USAF were both in search of a more advanced airplane. The Lockheed Corporation, which holds a distinct position in manufacturing warplanes, developed a blueprint of the Blackbird at their renowned Skunk works in California. Soon the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird became the world’s speediest airplane. It was a force to reckon with— an invisible aircraft formulated for high-elevation military surveillance mission.
The United States made the SR-71 because it wanted to see what was behind the Iron Curtain, and also get a better idea of all the hot spots that had suddenly erupted. They went through the arduous process of making the plane in order to estimate the strength of their enemies, observe their progress in nuclear weapons, examine their culture, and answer hundreds of other questions that could be answered only through an aerial method.
The first model of Lockheed SR-71 was made in the year 1958. The airplane could fly at a height in excess of 26,000 m, that is, 85,000, with speed which could exceed Mach 3. The discernibility of SR-71 was only one-percent. These features made the aircraft more efficient and securer for surveillance missions in the enemy territories.
It must be noted that the Blackbird was a more sophisticated rendition of an earlier aircraft A-21. The main engineer and designer of A-12, Kelly Johnson, finished the project in the early 1960s and the first airplane was sent to the United States government in the year 1964. The speed of this up-to-date model was Mach 3.2+ and it could fly at an elevation in excess of 85,000 ft. The utility of the Blackbirds can be estimated from the fact that from 1964 to 1990, the Blackbirds covered almost every part of the world, carrying exceedingly private operations of the United States government.
The Blackbirds were constructed with titanium and had the ability of travelling at a speed of over three times the speed of sound. The exact numbers about the speed and effectiveness were never made public. However, the information available included that the SR-71 had room for holding two persons, and also that it included two Pratt & Whitney J58 turbojet engine with 32500 lbs. thrust each. The airplane was 107 ft.5 inches long, 18 ft. 6 inches high, and had a wings-pan.
Blackbird was the hottest plane in the cold war. The aircraft’s capabilities were so revolutionary that it would still be the hottest plane in the air-if it were operational today. Moreover, the Blackbird is one of the most asked about aircraft in the National Air and Space Museum collection. Blackbird related terms are Habu, unstart, Bat Caver, and hook. . Habu is a sacred word given to those SR-71 crews who have flown operational missions. One interesting fact about Habu is that only they are entitled to wear the Habu patch on their flight clothing.
SR-71 looks like something out of a Star Wars movie and the amazing part is that it can still outperform all other aircrafts. The record-breaking transcontinental delivery flight of the SR-71 is now in the NASM collection. (Graham, 2002). All this goes on to prove that the SR-71 was something extraordinary both in its scope and its effectiveness.
During the Cold War era, stealth aircraft such as the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird were capable of taking pictures while flying at phenomenal speeds at very high altitudes. (Luo, Joshi, & Hao, 2008). This would surely have helped the military forces in making important strategic decisions with regard to their enemies.
It is also true that the SR-71 is not just important for people who operate in military and governmental circles, but also for those who exist and operate beyond them. A case in point would be that as a famous high-speed and visually stunning aircraft, the SR-71 is a compelling and well-known example to many aerospace students that serves to motivate interest in the field. (German, 2010).
A one of a kind aircraft, the SR-71 Blackbird was designed to operate under never-before-attained conditions, namely Mach 3. Until spy planes were replaced by satellite surveillance, the SR-71 was the ultimate airplane, (Black & Kosher, 2017). All this goes on to add even more to the sheer brilliance of the SR-71 plane.
The SR-71 has been called the seeker of truth. The fact that the aircraft had no equal is truly unique within the Air Force, causing it to attract critics along the way. The spectrum of critics ranged from those who labeled SR-71 crews Prima Donnas, to those who actively sought to dismantle the entire SR-71 program. Yet, with the help of highly dedicated maintenance personnel and hundreds of patriotic civilians working on the aircraft, the SR-71 remained a success story for over twenty-one years. (Graham, 1996)
The SR-71 was a unique aircraft. Even to this day it is animatedly talked about. Moreover, with technological advancements the changes to the SR-71 improved its performance and design. The importance of this plane can be judged from the fact that it is still of relevance when countries and agencies plan their surveillance missions. In its true sense, in the history of aircraft, this plane was a milestone achieved. Other developments-for spying purposes- in the aircraft industry were nothing but offshoots of the SR-71 Blackbird. History stands witness to the magnificence and unprecedentedness of this aircraft. And it is expected that in the future, too, this aircraft would serve as a commendable example of strategic politics.
Graham, R. H. (2002). SR-71 Blackbird: Stories, Tales, and Legends. Zenith Imprint.
Luo, J., Yu, J., Joshi, D., & Hao, W. (2008, October). Event recognition: viewing the world with a third eye. In Proceedings of the 16th ACM international conference on Multimedia (pp. 1071-1080). ACM.
German, B. (2010, June). A Case Study Approach To Teaching Aircraft Performance: Reverse Engineering, The SR 71 Blackbird. In 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition (pp. 15-10).
Black, J. T., & Kohser, R. A. (2017). DeGarmo’s materials and processes in manufacturing. John Wiley & Sons.
Graham, R. H. (1996). SR-71 Revealed: The Untold Story. Zenith Imprint.