An unrivalled spy-plane

An unrivalled spy-plane
There was a spy-plane built by the US that was never lost to enemy action. The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, which served in the US Air Force from 1964 to 1998, is still..

There was a spy-plane built by the US that was never lost to enemy action.

The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, which served in the US Air Force from 1964 to 1998, is still considered one of the finest military aircrafts in existence.

Background

The SR-71 was built during the Cold War era. Its main goal was to be able to outfly Soviet Union’s missile defenses. The need for a highs-speed spy-plane became apparent to the US government in 1960. A US U-2 spy-plane had been shot down by the Soviet Union military.

Lockheed Corporation, an American aerospace company, took up the challenge of building a plane that could fly higher and faster than any USSR military aircraft. Within a year and a half, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird had been built and was flown by Lockheed. It was introduced to the US Air Force in 1964.

A total of 32 of these aircrafts were built and used over the span of three decades. In that period, 12 of them were lost in accidents. However, it was never taken down by enemy action.  The first ever Blackbird was actually built with Titanium that had been smuggled by the CIA from the USSR.

Analysis

Pilots who flew the SR-71 had to wear specialized gear during flight. This was because these aircrafts flew at 80,000 feet above sea level. Special pressurized suits were made for the crew members that were similar to the ones that were built for astronauts. The engines were incredibly powerful and produced 34,000 pounds of thrust. USSR went on to build the MiG-25 to take down the SR-71 but failed to keep up.

The aircraft is still the fastest that has ever flown in the history of aviation. Its speed record of 2,193.13 mph has not been broken in over 40 years. Interestingly, the record had been set in a jet where one of the engines had shut down.

NASA retired the aircraft in 1998. This was partly because the maintenance of these aircrafts was extremely expensive. 

The successor for the spy-plane has not yet been introduced to the US Air Force.  Lockheed is simply calling it SR-72. According to Lockheed, the new aircraft will be the same size but will be twice as fast as SR-71.

Assessment

Our assessment is that for over three decades the SR-71 was one of the finest spy-planes in the world. Today, it is in display at the National Air and Space Museum in the US. It serves as a reminder of what technology can achieve. 

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