Lockheed SR-71A

One of the most amazing aeroplanes ever built, the SR-71A Blackbird originated from the CIA’s request for a replacement for the U-2 spyplane. Like many top-secret projects, it was entrusted to Lockheed’s famous “Skunk Works” team, headed by Kelly Johnson. They came up with the A-12 first, in 1962, and then the slightly larger
SR-71, in December 1964.
The fastest air-breathing, manned aircraft, the SR-71 was designed to fly at three times the speed of sound (over 2,000mph) and at an altitude in excess of 80,000ft. overflying hostile territory on photo-reconnaissance
missions. Everything about the aircraft was novel, from its heat-resistant, lightweight, titanium alloy skin to the combined turbojet/ramjet engines, super-efficient at high supersonic speed. The elongated fuselage was
actually thinner than the huge engine pods mounted on the wings.
The SR-71 was finished in radar-absorbent black paint in an early attempt at “stealth”. However, its survival was guaranteed not by evading radar-detection but by flying too fast and too high for a ground-launched missile
to do damage.
Its cruising speed was phenomenal – it could cross the United States from coast to coast in just over an hour. The SR-71 was introduced into service in 1966; the last of these sensational aircraft retired in 1998,