posted on Feb, 11 2006 @ 03:43 PM
Blackbird Roll Call
Exact maximum speed is still classified, Cruising speed 1,320 MPH, Service Ceiling 80,000+ feet, Range 3,000 miles The SR-71 Blackbird is still
considered the world's fastest aircraft, and still holds several speed and altitude records; record speed over a 15-mile course (2,193 MPH), maximum
sustained height (85,069 feet), speed record from New York to London (one hour, 55 minutes), and London to Los Angeles (three hours, 47 minutes).
The development of the SR-71 by the USAF and the CIA was shrouded in secrecy, and came into service as a result of a decision by the CIA to acquire an
aircraft with a higher service ceiling and a greater maximum speed than the U-2 aircraft. Constructed largely of titanium, it is coated with high-heat
emissive black paint and used precious metals (such as gold) components to help retard the 1,100 F degree skin temperature of sustained supersonic
Designed as a strategic reconnaissance aircraft, equipment included electronic intelligence collection and radar surveillance systems plus
photographic equipment capable of surveying 100,000 square miles of the earth's surface in an hour.
There are 5 models of Blackbirds. The A-12 (original version) flew from 1962 until 1968 when it was replaced by the SR-71. The YF-12A was an attempt
at creating a Mach 3 interceptor/bomber- only three were built. There were two, two-seater M-21s built in the mid-60s, one crashed while launching a
D-21 drone, and no more were built. The D-21 was an unmanned drone version (air-launched by B-52s and the M-21) that was used over the Soviet Union
after an agreement was reached restricting manned flights through Soviet airspace.
The first three models (A-12, YF-12 and SR-71) are nearly identical. The differences are primarily in regards to performance. The only real visual
difference between these first three models is length: A-12 is 102 feet long, YF-12 is 7 inches shorter, and the SR-71 is 2 inches longer.