A handful of nice surface grinding aluminum photos I found:
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: Photomontage of SR-71 on the port side
Image by Chris Devers
Posted by way of e-mail to ☛ HoloChromaCinePhotoRamaScope‽: cdevers.posterous.com/panoramas-of-the-sr-71-blackbird-at…. See the full gallery on Posterous …
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No reconnaissance aircraft in history has operated globally in a lot more hostile airspace or with such comprehensive impunity than the SR-71, the world’s quickest jet-propelled aircraft. The Blackbird’s efficiency and operational achievements placed it at the pinnacle of aviation technology developments throughout the Cold War.
This Blackbird accrued about 2,800 hours of flight time for the duration of 24 years of active service with the U.S. Air Force. On its final flight, March 6, 1990, Lt. Col. Ed Yielding and Lt. Col. Joseph Vida set a speed record by flying from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., in 1 hour, 4 minutes, and 20 seconds, averaging 3,418 kilometers (2,124 miles) per hour. At the flight’s conclusion, they landed at Washington-Dulles International Airport and turned the airplane over to the Smithsonian.
Transferred from the United States Air Force.
Lockheed Aircraft Corporation
Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson
Nation of Origin:
United States of America
All round: 18ft five 15/16in. x 55ft 7in. x 107ft 5in., 169998.5lb. (5.638m x 16.942m x 32.741m, 77110.8kg)
Other: 18ft 5 15/16in. x 107ft 5in. x 55ft 7in. (5.638m x 32.741m x 16.942m)
Twin-engine, two-seat, supersonic strategic reconnaissance aircraft airframe constructed largley of titanium and its alloys vertical tail fins are constructed of a composite (laminated plastic-type material) to minimize radar cross-section Pratt and Whitney J58 (JT11D-20B) turbojet engines function huge inlet shock cones.
No reconnaissance aircraft in history has operated in more hostile airspace or with such full impunity than the SR-71 Blackbird. It is the fastest aircraft propelled by air-breathing engines. The Blackbird’s performance and operational achievements placed it at the pinnacle of aviation technologies developments throughout the Cold War. The airplane was conceived when tensions with communist Eastern Europe reached levels approaching a complete-blown crisis in the mid-1950s. U.S. military commanders desperately required precise assessments of Soviet worldwide military deployments, particularly near the Iron Curtain. Lockheed Aircraft Corporation’s subsonic U-2 (see NASM collection) reconnaissance aircraft was an able platform but the U. S. Air Force recognized that this fairly slow aircraft was currently vulnerable to Soviet interceptors. They also understood that the fast development of surface-to-air missile systems could put U-two pilots at grave threat. The danger proved reality when a U-2 was shot down by a surface to air missile over the Soviet Union in 1960.
Lockheed’s initial proposal for a new higher speed, higher altitude, reconnaissance aircraft, to be capable of avoiding interceptors and missiles, centered on a design and style propelled by liquid hydrogen. This proved to be impracticable simply because of considerable fuel consumption. Lockheed then reconfigured the design and style for conventional fuels. This was feasible and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), already flying the Lockheed U-two, issued a production contract for an aircraft designated the A-12. Lockheed’s clandestine ‘Skunk Works’ division (headed by the gifted style engineer Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson) developed the A-12 to cruise at Mach 3.two and fly well above 18,288 m (60,000 feet). To meet these difficult requirements, Lockheed engineers overcame a lot of daunting technical challenges. Flying far more than three instances the speed of sound generates 316° C (600° F) temperatures on external aircraft surfaces, which are adequate to melt standard aluminum airframes. The style group chose to make the jet’s external skin of titanium alloy to which shielded the internal aluminum airframe. Two standard, but extremely effective, afterburning turbine engines propelled this exceptional aircraft. These energy plants had to operate across a large speed envelope in flight, from a takeoff speed of 334 kph (207 mph) to much more than 3,540 kph (2,200 mph). To avoid supersonic shock waves from moving inside the engine intake causing flameouts, Johnson’s group had to style a complicated air intake and bypass program for the engines.
Skunk Functions engineers also optimized the A-12 cross-section design and style to exhibit a low radar profile. Lockheed hoped to attain this by carefully shaping the airframe to reflect as tiny transmitted radar energy (radio waves) as attainable, and by application of particular paint designed to absorb, rather than reflect, those waves. This treatment became one particular of the very first applications of stealth technologies, but it never totally met the style objectives.
Test pilot Lou Schalk flew the single-seat A-12 on April 24, 1962, following he became airborne accidentally in the course of high-speed taxi trials. The airplane showed great promise but it required considerable technical refinement prior to the CIA could fly the first operational sortie on May possibly 31, 1967 – a surveillance flight more than North Vietnam. A-12s, flown by CIA pilots, operated as portion of the Air Force’s 1129th Specific Activities Squadron beneath the "Oxcart" program. While Lockheed continued to refine the A-12, the U. S. Air Force ordered an interceptor version of the aircraft designated the YF-12A. The Skunk Performs, nevertheless, proposed a "specific mission" version configured to conduct post-nuclear strike reconnaissance. This system evolved into the USAF’s familiar SR-71.
Lockheed built fifteen A-12s, which includes a specific two-seat trainer version. Two A-12s have been modified to carry a particular reconnaissance drone, designated D-21. The modified A-12s have been redesignated M-21s. These have been designed to take off with the D-21 drone, powered by a Marquart ramjet engine mounted on a pylon among the rudders. The M-21 then hauled the drone aloft and launched it at speeds high enough to ignite the drone’s ramjet motor. Lockheed also built 3 YF-12As but this kind in no way went into production. Two of the YF-12As crashed in the course of testing. Only 1 survives and is on show at the USAF Museum in Dayton, Ohio. The aft section of one particular of the "written off" YF-12As which was later employed along with an SR-71A static test airframe to manufacture the sole SR-71C trainer. 1 SR-71 was lent to NASA and designated YF-12C. Which includes the SR-71C and two SR-71B pilot trainers, Lockheed constructed thirty-two Blackbirds. The initial SR-71 flew on December 22, 1964. Because of extreme operational fees, military strategists decided that the far more capable USAF SR-71s need to replace the CIA’s A-12s. These have been retired in 1968 soon after only 1 year of operational missions, mainly over southeast Asia. The Air Force’s 1st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron (portion of the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing) took more than the missions, flying the SR-71 beginning in the spring of 1968.
Right after the Air Force began to operate the SR-71, it acquired the official name Blackbird– for the unique black paint that covered the airplane. This paint was formulated to absorb radar signals, to radiate some of the tremendous airframe heat generated by air friction, and to camouflage the aircraft against the dark sky at high altitudes.
Knowledge gained from the A-12 system convinced the Air Force that flying the SR-71 safely necessary two crew members, a pilot and a Reconnaissance Systems Officer (RSO). The RSO operated with the wide array of monitoring and defensive systems installed on the airplane. This gear included a sophisticated Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) technique that could jam most acquisition and targeting radar. In addition to an array of sophisticated, high-resolution cameras, the aircraft could also carry equipment designed to record the strength, frequency, and wavelength of signals emitted by communications and sensor devices such as radar. The SR-71 was made to fly deep into hostile territory, avoiding interception with its tremendous speed and high altitude. It could operate safely at a maximum speed of Mach 3.3 at an altitude more than sixteen miles, or 25,908 m (85,000 ft), above the earth. The crew had to put on stress suits comparable to these worn by astronauts. These suits were essential to shield the crew in the event of sudden cabin stress loss although at operating altitudes.
To climb and cruise at supersonic speeds, the Blackbird’s Pratt & Whitney J-58 engines had been made to operate constantly in afterburner. Even though this would appear to dictate high fuel flows, the Blackbird truly accomplished its very best "gas mileage," in terms of air nautical miles per pound of fuel burned, during the Mach 3+ cruise. A typical Blackbird reconnaissance flight might require many aerial refueling operations from an airborne tanker. Each time the SR-71 refueled, the crew had to descend to the tanker’s altitude, typically about six,000 m to 9,000 m (20,000 to 30,000 ft), and slow the airplane to subsonic speeds. As velocity decreased, so did frictional heat. This cooling impact triggered the aircraft’s skin panels to shrink considerably, and these covering the fuel tanks contracted so considerably that fuel leaked, forming a distinctive vapor trail as the tanker topped off the Blackbird. As quickly as the tanks were filled, the jet’s crew disconnected from the tanker, relit the afterburners, and again climbed to higher altitude.
Air Force pilots flew the SR-71 from Kadena AB, Japan, throughout its operational career but other bases hosted Blackbird operations, also. The 9th SRW sometimes deployed from Beale AFB, California, to other places to carryout operational missions. Cuban missions had been flown straight from Beale. The SR-71 did not begin to operate in Europe until 1974, and then only temporarily. In 1982, when the U.S. Air Force primarily based two aircraft at Royal Air Force Base Mildenhall to fly monitoring mission in Eastern Europe.
When the SR-71 became operational, orbiting reconnaissance satellites had already replaced manned aircraft to collect intelligence from sites deep inside Soviet territory. Satellites could not cover each geopolitical hotspot so the Blackbird remained a important tool for global intelligence gathering. On numerous occasions, pilots and RSOs flying the SR-71 offered data that proved crucial in formulating successful U. S. foreign policy. Blackbird crews provided crucial intelligence about the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and its aftermath, and pre- and post-strike imagery of the 1986 raid conducted by American air forces on Libya. In 1987, Kadena-primarily based SR-71 crews flew a quantity of missions more than the Persian Gulf, revealing Iranian Silkworm missile batteries that threatened commercial shipping and American escort vessels.
As the overall performance of space-primarily based surveillance systems grew, along with the effectiveness of ground-based air defense networks, the Air Force started to lose enthusiasm for the expensive plan and the 9th SRW ceased SR-71 operations in January 1990. Despite protests by military leaders, Congress revived the program in 1995. Continued wrangling more than operating budgets, even so, soon led to final termination. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration retained two SR-71As and the a single SR-71B for high-speed investigation projects and flew these airplanes till 1999.
On March 6, 1990, the service career of a single Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird ended with a record-setting flight. This special airplane bore Air Force serial number 64-17972. Lt. Col. Ed Yeilding and his RSO, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Vida, flew this aircraft from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. in 1 hour, four minutes, and 20 seconds, averaging a speed of 3,418 kph (two,124 mph). At the conclusion of the flight, ‘972 landed at Dulles International Airport and taxied into the custody of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. At that time, Lt. Col. Vida had logged 1,392.7 hours of flight time in Blackbirds, much more than that of any other crewman.
This particular SR-71 was also flown by Tom Alison, a former National Air and Space Museum’s Chief of Collections Management. Flying with Detachment 1 at Kadena Air Force Base, Okinawa, Alison logged a lot more than a dozen ‘972 operational sorties. The aircraft spent twenty-four years in active Air Force service and accrued a total of 2,801.1 hours of flight time.
Weight: 170,000 Lbs
Reference and Further Reading:
Crickmore, Paul F. Lockheed SR-71: The Secret Missions Exposed. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 1996.
Francillon, Rene J. Lockheed Aircraft Since 1913. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1987.
Johnson, Clarence L. Kelly: More Than My Share of It All. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1985.
Miller, Jay. Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Functions. Leicester, U.K.: Midland Counties Publishing Ltd., 1995.
Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird curatorial file, Aeronautics Division, National Air and Space Museum.