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Mon, Oct 12, 2009

Aero-TV: Shroud of Secrets – The SR-71 Blackbird

Director Larry Wood Introduces World’s Most Enigmatic Aircraft

Known as the world’s fastest and highest flying aircraft, the SR-71 remains a source of fascination and secrecy over fifty years since its development.  In the mid 1950s, the United States Air Force and the C.I.A. sought to replace the U-2. 

The ARCHANGEL project, spearheaded by Lockheed, led to the development of the A-12, an over-flight aircraft configured to fly at extremely high speeds and altitudes over intended targets.  In May of 1960, however, after a U-2 was shot down over the Soviet Union, the United States signed an agreement not to fly manned vehicles over the Soviet Union again.  As a result, the newly developed A-12 could no longer complete its mission as originally intended.  



The SR-71 became the CIA’s answer. Configured to use cameras that were for peripheral coverage, the aircraft could gather imagery data without entering enemy airspace.  The government, however, decided it was too costly to keep both aircraft programs in development. 

To decide which aircraft was better suited for the mission, the USAF conducted a reconnaissance “fly-off” between the A-12 and the SR-71 in November of 1967.  The SR-71 was ruled as the superior aircraft, and the A-12 program was retired.

The SR-71 flew its first operational mission on March 21st, 1968, and though it was officially retired in 1990, the United States Air Force kept several SR-71s in operation until its final flight in October of 1999.  Capable of long-range strategic reconnaissance missions, the aircraft is able to fly at speeds over Mach 3.2 and at 85,000 feet, though it is rumored to be able to accelerate to Mach 3.5 and fly up to 100,000 feet. 

The aircraft has broken several records including two on July 28th, 1976:  the world speed record at 2,193 mph and a world altitude record of 85,068.997 feet.

FMI: www.sr-71.org/, www.sprucegoose.org/, www.aero-tv.net, www.youtube.com/aerotvnetwork, http://twitter.com/AeroNews

 


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