U.S. Air Force, Air Force Plant 2, Palmdale, California



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The last of a small family of aircraft built by Lockheed's famous Skunk Works, the SR-71 is one of the most recognized aircraft ever built. Design of what would become the Blackbird began in 1958 with a request from the CIA for an aircraft to replace the Lockheed U-2. The aircraft the CIA got was a single seat, twin engine, delta-winged design called the A-12. Even though the other versions of the Blackbird were known publicly the existence of the A-12 remained secret until 1982. The type made its first flight from the Groom Lake, Nevada test site in April 1962. Further development resulted in three different 2 seat versions; the YF-12 interceptor, the M-12 which carried the D-21 drone, and the SR-71 strategic reconnaissance aircraft. Slightly larger than the A-12 and with a longer range the first SR-71 flew in December 1964. In total 50 aircraft in the Blackbird Family were built with 30 of them being SR-71s. It is hard to overstate the technological achievement represented by the Blackbird. It holds world speed and altitude records and is the only manned, jet-powered aircraft to routinely exceed Mach 3.

A brief list of some of the records held by the Blackbird: July 28, 1976 -World absolute speed record - 2,193 mph July 28, 1976 - World absolute record for sustained altitude - 85,069 feet September 1, 1974 - New York to London - 1 hour 55 minutes 42 seconds March 6, 1990 - Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. - 1 hour 4 minutes 20 seconds


  • Wingspan: 55 ft 7 in
  • Length: 107 ft 2 in
  • Height: 16 ft 6 in
  • Weight: 140,000 lbs (loaded)
  • Max. Speed: 2,193 mph (Mach)
  • Service Ceiling: 85,000 ft +
  • Range: 3,200 miles
  • Engines: 2 Pratt & Whitney J-58 turbojets 34,000 lbs thrust each
  • Crew: 2