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SR-71 Blackbird – Why The World’s Fastest Steel Bird Rests In The Museum?



Capable of cruising at speeds in excess of Mach 3.2, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird was the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft to ever to see operational service. But even though its performance has never been matched, the SR-71 was retired as the Cold War drew to a close.

The Blackbird was initially retired in 1990, even before the fall of the Soviet Union. Eventually, however, three of the jets were reactivated by the Air Force—at the insistence of Congress—for a brief period between 1995 and 1998. Meanwhile, NASA flew research missions with the aircraft until 1999. In the end, the Blackbird was retired without a true replacement. But why?

Ultimately, while the SR-71 delivered unparalleled performance, it was its operating costs that condemned the Blackbird to early retirement. Moreover, the U.S. Air Force had doubts about the aircraft’s survivability versus a new generation of Soviet (and later Russian) air defenses and interceptors—like the SA-10 Grumble (and other advanced S-300 derivatives) and MiG-31 Foxhounds. In fact, the Air Force actively resisted congressional attempts to revive the program during the 1990s because of those very reasons.
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14 Comments

  • Corrine Tsang says:

    The SR-71 used two ram jet engine and a very expensive titanium alloy airframe that was secretly obtained from the former Soviet Union.The SR-71 flew at mach 3.3 speed.Titanium tends to expand  from heat friction after mach 3.5 speed.Fuel had to loaded after flight,there were gaps in the titanium alloy for ezpansion.Eleven SR-71 crashed leaving 22.Satellies can do a better job.

  • tyrone says:

    AA-12 was faster

  • Jumo 004 says:

    I've got a nice model of an SR 71.

  • Hamza Mughal says:

    bewaqoof

  • ThePeople'sPanzer says:

    Steel bird? Erm I think you mean Titanium.

  • Masaharu Morimoto says:

    neat!

  • Tomi says:

    inefficient …satellites do the recon job much cheaper

  • Robert Backlund says:

    If you think that there was no replacement for the SR 71 you are crazy. I would not be surprised that it's replacement is capable of entering orbit if needed. We mortals may never really know until such time that the US either uses them in a future war or decides to tell the world about them for political points.

  • Greg Roy says:

    Retiring the Blackbird also meant a lot jobs in congressmen's home states to build its replacement.

  • David Baker says:

    not much steel in them!

  • Major Robert Phelan says:

    Preserved, for future use. How would you enemy like to not see but hear something flying over head, but have no idea what it is. Think Black………….

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  • Lisa Bednaroski says:

    Blackbird SR-71 spy planes retired in 1989 plus NASA retired 4 SR-71 planes in 1990 . New spy plane Aurora still flying around under top secret black programs as United States of America spending money on top secret black programs more than military weapons or humanity needs . TR-3B UFO crafts are very expensive than Blackbird SR-71 and Aurora planes . I still wonder about Aurora planes haven't flown yet ? . Unfriendly countries like Russian , China and Vietnam been launching every missiles and faster planes fired missiles at Blackbird SR-71 planes , failed shot them down because Blackbird SR-71 planes can faster than Mach 3.2 and go higher than 100,000 attitude . Best Mig 31 and Mig 25 planes unable catch or shoot missiles to faster spy planes . Few Blackbirds were lost in accidents caused as tests and training programs , act mothership carry top secret drones lead accidents . More than 999 missiles launched from unfriendly countries and Russian , none hit Blackbird planes ! My boyfriend type on my iPhone:

  • HEYitz WitchKing says:

    that's kinda sad…kinda like how the air force has been thinking about giving up the A-10 Thunderbolt

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