We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is the SR-71 Blackbird?

Michael Anissimov
Updated May 21, 2024
Our promise to you
All The Science is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At All The Science, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The SR-71 "Blackbird," formally known as the Lockheed SR-71, was an advanced reconnaissance aircraft considered iconic of superior American aerospace technology. The sleek, stealthy craft was black colored, 107 ft 5 in (32.74 m) long, had a 55 ft 7 in (16.94 m) wingspan, 18 ft 6 in (5.64 m) tall, with a cruising speed of Mach 3.2 (2,200+ mph, 3,530+ km/h), and a loaded weight of 170,000 lb (77,000 kg). Its maximum speed was unknown, though it could have been Mach 4 or above. The SR-71 Blackbird has been called "one of the most spectacular planes ever built." Its cost and function was similar to that of spy satellites.

First introduced in 1966, 32 SR-71 Blackbird craft were produced throughout the late 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, at a per unit acquisition cost of over $200 million USD (US Dollars), with the craft remaining in use until 1998, when it was permanently retired. The SR-71 Blackbird was built using the most advanced technology and design features available at the time, including unique air inlets to slow the airflow from Mach 3.2 to Mach 0.6 for the turbojet engines, dozens of computers managing everything from internal airflow to control surface details, a 85% titanium and 15% composite structure, its distinctive chines (sharp tapering sides designed to make the craft more aerodynamic), and many others.

Being a strategic reconnaissance plane, the SR-71 Blackbird lacked armament, but could evade most threats simply with its extreme speed. If a ground-to-air missile launch was detected by the pilot, the standard evasion procedure was simply to speed up. The craft was specially shaped for stealth, and its titanium frame was covered in radar-absorbing materials. No SR-71 Blackbird was ever lost to enemy action, though 12 of the 32 planes were lost due to accidents, causing three deaths over its 32 year history.

Throughout its history, the SR-71 Blackbird was the world's fastest and highest-flying operational manned aircraft, reaching an altitude of 85,069 feet (25,929 m, 16 miles), almost three times the altitude of Mt. Everest. It had a camera so accurate that it could image a car's license plate from this altitude, which, at the time of its introduction, was superior surveillance than the best spy satellites. Spy satellites orbit at altitudes of at least 200 miles above the surface, requiring more powerful cameras to see the same ground features.

The replacement for the SR-71 Blackbird is unknown, but has been the subject of much speculation since the craft was retired in 1998. Some have speculated on the existence of a secret hypersonic reconnaissance craft called Aurora, but its existence has never been acknowledged by any government official.

All The Science is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Anissimov
By Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated All The Science contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism to his articles. An avid blogger, Michael is deeply passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. His professional experience includes work with the Methuselah Foundation, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and Lifeboat Foundation, further showcasing his commitment to scientific advancement.
Discussion Comments
By anon299339 — On Oct 24, 2012

This is the greatest plane ever built.

By anon161919 — On Mar 21, 2011

I believe the first SR-71 was test flown in Dec of 1964. It was preceded by the A-12 and YFB12A aircraft. It did indeed outrun many Soviet SAM missiles over Asia. Kelly Johnson, its designer who ran Lockheed's famed Skunk Works, was a true American hero. His planes (SR-71, U-2, others) probably prevented World War III by providing irrefutable evidence of enemy activity (e.g. Cuban Missile Crisis photos).

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated All The Science contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology...
Learn more
All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.