LOCKHEED SR-71 BLACKBIRD Role: Strategic reconnaissance aircraft Manufacturer: Lockheed, Skunk Works division Status: Retired The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird is a long-range, Mach 3+ strategic reconnaissance aircraft that was operated by the United States Air Force. It was developed as a black projectfrom the Lockheed A-12 reconnaissance aircraft in the 1960s by Lockheed and its Skunk Works division. Renowned American aerospace engineer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson was responsible for many of the design's innovative concepts. During aerial reconnaissance missions, the SR-71 operated at high speeds and altitudes to allow it to outrace threats. If asurface-to-air missile launch was detected, the standard evasive action was simply to accelerate and outfly the missile. The SR-71 was designed to have basic stealth characteristics and served as a precursor to future stealth aircraft. The SR-71 served with the U.S. Air Force from 1964 to 1998. A total of 32 aircraft were built; 12 were lost in accidents with none lost to enemy action. The SR-71 has been given several nicknames, including Blackbird and Habu. It has held the world record for the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft since 1976; this record was previously held by the relatedLockheed YF-12.
WNU Editor: The gallery starts here .... The best and baddest of U.S. stealth bombers (Washington Times).