Secrets We Never Knew About The SR-71 Blackbird


The SR-71 Blackbird is perhaps one of the most advanced aircraft ever made. It was designed to be so stealth that it would be nearly impossible for enemy to detect it, and capable of speeds so high that it could out pace an incoming missile.

The SR-71 was one of Americas biggest assets during the time, helping to survey large portions of enemy territories in a short amount of time. Outside of war, the SR-71 Blackbird helped NASA in space research and helped in the commercial flight industry as well.

With all the amazing features of the SR-71 Blackbird, in this article you’ll discover 15 of its biggest secrets that you never knew.

15. Made From Titanium

In order for the concept of the SR-71 Blackbird to work, the airframe had to be made up of titanium. The usage of titanium proved beneficial in two ways. The first is that titanium was able to withstand the high temperatures caused by friction of speeds exceeding 2,000 MPH. Second, the use of titanium decreased the overall weight of the aircraft, thus being lighter than if it was made from steel.

14. Composed Of The First Composite Materials Ever Used On An Aircraft

The SR-71 Blackbird was composed of some of the first composite materials ever used on an aircraft. These materials allowed the SR-71 to fly even further under the radar, making it barely visible to radar.

Due to this, by the time the enemy detected the aircraft, the SR-71 was already on its way out of enemy territory.

13. Stealthy, But Not So Reliable

While the SR-71 Blackbird was stealthy as stealth could get, they weren’t the most reliable¬†as 12 out of 32 were lost due to accidents. The reliability issue was a cost to endure tough, as they proved to be a great asset to the U.S. Air Force.

12. Holds The Altitude And High Speed Record

In 1976, the SR-71 Blackbird flew at a sustained altitude of 85,069 feet with top speeds of 2,193 MPH, setting records of top speed and altitude that haven’t been beaten to this day. Just to put the speed of the SR-71 into perspective, 2,193 MPH is three times the speed of sound!

11. Helped NASA In Space Research

NASA used the immense capabilities of the SR-71 Blackbird to their advantage in helping them with space research. From 1990 to 1997, NASA used the SR-71 for sky gazing. They used a camera on the SR-71 that helped track celestial objects in wavelengths that were blocked by Earth’s atmosphere.

In addition, the SR-71 also helped NASA with research on how to rebuild and protect the ozone layer, a region of the Earth’s atmosphere that absorbs the suns ultraviolet radiation.

10. Pilots Had To Wear Special Suits

Due to the high speeds and altitudes that the SR-71 is capable of, the pilots had to wear special suits when in the air. These suits were pressurized, and their helmets were similar to those of astronauts going to space.

Their helmets were connected to an oxygen supply by a hose to allow them to properly breath while at high altitudes. The pilots suits also protected them from the high heat the SR-71 generated at its high speeds.

9. Ability To Dodge Missiles

Throughout the use of the SR-71 Blackbirds, not one was shot down by a missile, even though many attempts were made. The SR-71 can simply outpace a missile, and its jamming technology was so advanced that it could block the missile from receiving updated locations on the SR-71.

8. The SR-71’s Design Was A Secret

The Blackbird design was made in secret by the U.S. Air Force, CIA and Lockheed to prevent any potential leaks. Anyone involved in the design of the SR-71 was strictly not allowed to talk about it outside of work, even to their families. The SR-71 Blackbird remained a secret until its unveiling in 1964 by President Johnson.

7. Temperature Of The Frame

Coming with high speeds and high altitudes, the SR-71 is prone to very high temperatures. The friction created by immense speeds at this high of an altitude causes the skin of the SR-71 to reach 400 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and the part above the engine can reach 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

6. Required Refueling Right After Takeoff

Immediate refuel of the SR-71 was required after a few had tire failure due to the original 80,00 pounds of fuel on board. After these failures, they cut the onboard fuel during takeoff to half, 40,00 pounds, but that meant that it had to be refueled in the air before it started its mission.

5. Expands During Flight

One of the coolest concepts of the SR-71 Blackbird is that it expands when reaching higher altitude levels. When creating the design of the SR-71, expansion joint lines had to be strategically placed on the plane to allow the frame to expand without causing any failures. The reasons these expansion joints were needed is based off the scientific fact that when matter gets hot, it expands.

4. Amazing Camera Capabilities

The capabilities of the SR-71’s camera was uncanny for its time. Referred to as “The Country’s Camera”, the camera took photos that were 72 miles wide. This allowed the SR-71 to capture large portions of enemy territory on camera in a short amount of time, proving to be a big advantage for the U.S.

3. Required Specially Made Tires

Many of the failures of the SR-71 were caused by tire malfunctions. This forced them to have a custom-made tire specifically for the Blackbird. The tire was designed to support the weight of the fuel of the aircraft and to sustain the high heat temperatures at high speeds and altitudes.

2. Didn’t Carry Any Self-Defense Weapons

With all the capabilities of the SR-71 Blackbird, self-defense weapons are not one. In its defense, the SR-71 didn’t really require any self-defense weapons in the first place. The Blackbirds stealth factor and speeds capable of out pacing missiles certainly covered the absence of self-defense weapons.

1. Pilot Requirements

The SR-71 Blackbird was not the easiest of aircraft’s to pilot. Therefore, potential pilots had to undergo extensive pilot training to be considered as a pilot of the SR-71. Due to the high altitudes the pilots would experience, the training consisted of the same physical training as NASA astronauts