The sign accompanying the aircraft. It reads
The SR-71 is one of the world's fastest airplanes, and it
still holds several speed and altitude records.
The Blackbird hold world records for speed over a 15-mile course (2,193 MPH)
and for maximum sustained height (85,069 ft). It also holds speed records from
New York to London (1 hour and 55 minutes) and London to Los Angeles (3 hours
and 47 minutes). An SR-71 crew consists of a pilot and a reconnaissance
Its development by the U.S. Air Force and Central Intelligence Agency was
shrouded in secrecy, but the SR-71 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 supplied with gold engine components to help retard the 1,100-degree
F skin temperature of sustained supersonic flight.
Designed as a strategic reconnaissance aircraft, equipment carried included
electronic intelligence collection and radar surveillance systems plus
photographic equipment that could survey 100,000 square miles of the earth's
surface in one hour from a height of 80,000 feet.
Although the aircraft was designated the "RS-71," President Lyndon Johnson is
believed to have transposed the name to "SR-71" in his speech revealing the
aircraft. "SR" is taken to mean "Strategic Reconnaissance," although neither
"SR" nor "SR-71" appear in the official Department of Defense list of aircraft
The first SR-71s were delivered in 1966 to the 4200th SRW, a new unit based at
Beale Air Force Base in California, where special KC-135Q tankers of the 100th
ARW were also based. Of the initial batch of 29 aircraft, 2 were designated
SR-71B for the trainer role.
In June 1966, the 4200th was renumbered as the 9th SRW, and these SR-71s were
assigned to the 1st SRS. Detachments flew regularly from RAF Mildenhall in the
UK and Kadena Air Base in Okinawa.
In the 1960s, the Blackbird recorded China's first test of a nuclear bomb, and
in 1982, it photographed the presence of Soviet MiGs in Nicaragua. In 1973, an
SR-71 provided verification photos for the Arab-Israeli ware cease-fire, and in
1987, the plane flew bomb damage assessment missions following the U.S. attack
on Libya. The Blackbird also flew reconnaissance missions over North Korea,
North Vietnam, and Cuba.
Although retired in 1990, three SR-71s were reactivated in 1995. Several
Blackbirds also are still in use by NASA (designated YF-12C).
About This SR-71A
This SR-71 (SN 61-7964) was manufactured by Lockheed Aircraft and delivered to
the U.S. Air Force on May 27, 1966. It was flown to the SAC Museum on March
20, 1990. This Blackbird has the third-highest flight hours (3,370) of all
This aircraft is on loan from the U.S. Air Force Museum Program.
Specifications of the SR-71A
Mission: High-speed, high-altitude strategic reconnaissance
Range: Approximately 3,000 mi at 78,740 ft (Mach 3)
Years of service: 1966-1990, 1995-c. 1997
Years with SAC: 1966-1990
Number built: 32 (estimate for all models)
Number assigned to SAC: Undetermined
Power Plant: 2 Pratt & Whitney JT11D-20B
continuous-bleed, afterburning turbojets, 34,00-lb static thrust each
with afterburner, approximately 23,000-lb continuous.
Weight, empty: 60,000 lb
Weight, loaded: 170,000 lb
Maximum take-off weight, loaded: 170,000 lb
Maximum speed: 2,193 MPH at 85,669 ft
Cruising speed: 1,320 MPH at 30,2000 ft (Mach 2)
Service ceiling: 80,000+ ft