(above, as of 18 April 2013)
|Length:||107' 5"||32.74 M|
|Height:||18' 6"||5.64 M|
|Wingspan:||55' 7"||16.94 M|
|Empty Weight:||60000.0 lbs||27210.0 Kg|
|Gross Weight:||145000 lbs||77097.0 Kg|
|No. of Engines:||2|
|Powerplant:||Pratt & Whitney J58|
|Range:||3000 miles||4669.00 Km|
|Max Speed: Mach 3.2+||2200.00 Mph||3220.00 Km/H||1740.54 Kt|
|Ceiling:||85000.0 Ft||25907.0 M|
Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird
Created by Kelly Johnson, the SR-71 Blackbird set the world speed record in July 1976 of 2193.167 MPH and has held it ever since. In the same flight it also set the altitude record of 85,068.997 feet. One SR-71, serial number 61-7972, was donated to the Smithsonian Institute and in a farewell flight, flew from Los Angeles to Washington DC in 64 minutes.
The SR-71 was designed as a high-speed high altitude aircraft, providing pre-attack and post-attack reconnaissance. SR-71 aircraft flew most of their operational missions from Detachment 1, Kadena Air base, Okinawa. Between 1968 and its deactivation in 1990, the SR-71 fleet flew over 3,500 operational sorties. No SR-71 was ever shot down or hit by enemy fire, and they are known to have outrun 100s of missiles. It could fly 1 mile in under 2 seconds. It was at Okinawa that the Blackbird earned the nickname Habu after a native deadly snake. When the SR-71 flew, the Okinawans thought it looked like a Habu snake in flight. Sortie marks were tallied on the aircraft as small white habus.
Constructed of 93% titanium alloy and composites, it produces original stealth technology. A special paint is applied giving it a higher thermal emissivity when cruising at high Mach and contains tiny iron balls that dissipates electromagnetic radiation. The paint alone adds over 60 lbs to the jet.
The complex Pratt and Whitney J58 engines are very unique. Inlet temperatures can reach 1100 degrees C. and require astralloy discs in the turbine sections to withstand the heat. The combustion exhaust temperature reaches 3200 degrees F. The blast created by the SR71 stretches for 3000 feet and the turbulent air sizzles at over 200 degrees. The SR71 cruises in afterburner so it incorporates an Air Inlet Control System (spikes) and a bleed by-pass system, which increases or decreases airflow into the engine, when flying between subsonic and into the higher supersonic speeds. The largest engines of their timeto be built for an aircraft, they produce 160,000 horse power giving the blackbird a thrust to weight ratio of 5 to 1. Designed as a combination turbo-ramjet engine, after attaining desired altitude and speed, the engines remain in afterburner and speed is maintained by increasing the airflow passing around the engine, thus requiring less thrust from the core engine, and thereby consuming less fuel. These are the only engines built that effectively and efficiently cruised at Mach 3 and above for sustained time periods.
Heat generated during flight can reach over 1000 degrees F. temperatures, with an average temperature of over 600 degrees, that causes the fuselage to expand in flight from 3 to 4 inches in length.. After landing, ground crews had to be careful of large titanium areas such as the main landing gear as these took a while to cool down. The flight crew wears special self- contained space suits to protect them during flight and to ensure survival during a high altitude cabin presssure loss or ejection. Temperatures inside the cockpit could get quite warm towards the end of a long hign speed cruise leg with temperatures of 550 degrees on the pilot's side windows. The small triangle windows in front of the pilot will heat to 625 degrees during cruise. . To heat their food they simply held it against the windscreen. A pair of complete suits cost approximately $185,000.
The SR-71 uses a special JP-7 high-temperature jet fuel. It can carry 12,219 gallons and, at top speed, needs refueling every two hours . It consumes fuel at about 5000 gallons per hour. The fuel is very stable and doesn't burn easily which requires a chemical ignition system to start the engines. Tri-ethyl borane (TEB) is injected into the engines at start-up, re-start and when going into afterburner. The fuel system is also used to cool the aircraft environmental, hydraulic, oil, TEB systems, and associated lines. It seeps fuel on the ground and in the air until aircraft heating expansion seals off some of the leaks. Because of an average aircraft temperature at cruise of 600 F, rubber bladders could not be used in the fuel tanks. Tanks were built as tight as possible and silicon was used to seal the seams. Aircraft heating would cause the silicon to become brittle and leak. Every 100 flight hours the tanks had to be opened, the old silicon stripped out, and the new silicon applied.
The SR-71 has 6 main BF Goodrich 22-ply rating tires, each filled with 425 PSI of nitrogen. Impregnated with aluminum powder to reduce heat, they cost $2,300.00 each and are serviceable for approximately 15 landings.
Cameras in the SR-71 can map 100,000 square miles per hour in which selected targets could be enlarged 20 times for analysis.
The SR-71 proved itself to be a valuable asset to the United States during the Cold War and a technological masterpiece. It was a thoroughbred; however, the $80,000 per hour price tag became too expensive to operate, lack of a real time data link, and finally being identified as a Cold War Peace dividend caused the SR-71 program to be retired in 1990.
In 1995 the SR-71's talents were needed once again and the program re-activated. Two blackbirds were returned to active duty at Edwards AFB, simply to once again be chopped on the defense budget and permanently retired in 1997. The last flight on any SR-71 was a NASA flight in 1999.
The March Field Air Museum's SR-71, 61-7975, was delivered to the Air Force in 1967. (Note: in the past we have identified our SR-71 as 64-17975). Our SR-71 spent several years at Kadena AFB, flying photo recon missions over Vietnam during the war. The small white snakes or "HABUs" that adorn the rear cockpit are sortie marks tallied for every econnaissance mission during Vietnam. Our SR-71 accumulated 82 such marks.
During Linebacker II in December 1972 our SR-71 performed one of the most important missions: flying over targets exactly when 60 B-52's would drop their bombs. By doing this they were able to provide additional ECM coverage to protect the bombers and take reconnaissance photos. The pictures revealed unknown enemy emitters that were responsible for B-52 losses.
In 1987 our SR-71 flew an 11-hour mission over Iran searching for unfriendly missiles overlooking the Gulf of Hormuz. Their revelation enabled a warning to the U.S. Navy and neighboring countries. The red scimitars on her tail are evidence of missions over the Persian Gulf prior to the Gulf War. After Shayne Meder, Aircraft Restoration Manager, tracked down a former crew chief of 975, she got the real story behind the skin patches on the right engine nacelle. It seems our Blackbird was performing a high mach outrun of a SAM (Surface to Air Missile) in 1987 and shelled a turbine blade. She outran the missile, but had to make an emergency landing at a Naval air station in the Key West area.
On 28 February 1990, the museum's SR-71, 61-7975, flew from Beale AFB and landed at March AFB, completing her career with 2,854 flight hours, 743 of which were over Mach 3. She was stripped of her top secret equipment and assigned to the museum. All but three of the Blackbirds were declared surplus when the cost of operation caused them to be retired. It was believed that satellite reconnaissance could do the same job.
In February 2000, 10 years after her last flight, the museum began restoration work on 61-7975. During the restoration it was discovered that the left rudder had once been on a sister SR-71, 61-7978. This SR-71 wore the famous Playboy bunny and was named Rapid Rabbit. In 1972 during a landing mishap, 61-7978 was damaged beyond repair. Her crew safely escaped and the salvaged parts were removed to be used on other operational blackbirds. At some point while at Kadina, the 978 left rudder had been installed on our museum's 975. SR-71, 61-7978, was the first SR-71 to be stationed at Kadina to start SR-71 operations. If you should ever need to rekindle your patriotic fires, just walk out to the flight line, look at that left rudder on our SR-71 and realize that 978 blew a hole in the sound barrier over Hanoi to let our POWs know we were there.
In 2001, the museum's SR-71 appeared in the Warner Brothers movie, "Space Cowboys", starring Clint Eastwood, who spent a day on location at the museum while filming that picture. The scene is about one-third of the way into the movie; the characters have about one minute of dialogue near the fuselage under the plane. This aircraft is on loan from the USAF.
First Flight: December 1964
First Operational Use: March 1968
Last Operational flight: September 1989
Wingspan: 55.7 ft
Length: 107.5 ft
Height: 18.6 ft
Engines: Two Pratt & Whitney J58 continuous after-burning turbojets with 34,000 lb maximum thrust each
Publicized Max. Speed: 3.2 mach (2,200 mph)
Take-off speed: 210 knots
Landing speed: 150-155 knots. Uses a drag chute to stop.
Service Ceiling: 85,000 ft plus
Max. Range: 2,982 miles un-refueled (has flown 18,000 mile missions with in-flight refueling)
Weight: 145,000 lb max weight
Cost: $24.616 million in 1972
Total Built: 32
Number Lost: 12(accidents)
Number in Museums: 20 as of Nov 2008
The US War Machine, 1983. Ray Bond.
Arsenal of Democracy II, 1981. Tom Gervasi.
March Field Museum Literature.
Lockheed SR71, 1993, Paul Crickmore
SR71 in Action, Signal Publications
Flight magazine, Feb 2000