Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird

A picture of the Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird

The last of a small family of aircraft built by Lockheed’s famous Skunk Works, the SR-71 is one of the most recognized aircraft ever built.  Design of what would become the Blackbird began in 1958 with a request from the CIA for an aircraft to replace the Lockheed U-2.  The aircraft the CIA got was a single seat, twin engine, delta-winged design called the A-12.  Even though the other versions of the Blackbird were known publicly the existence of the A-12 remained secret until 1982.  The type made its first flight from the Groom Lake, Nevada test site in April 1962.  Further development resulted in three different 2 seat versions; the YF-12 interceptor, the M-12 which carried the D-21 drone, and the SR-71 strategic reconnaissance aircraft.  Slightly larger than the A-12 and with a longer range the first SR-71 flew in December 1964.  In total 50 aircraft in the Blackbird Family were built with 30 of them being SR-71s.  It is hard to overstate the technological achievement represented by the Blackbird.  It holds world speed and altitude records and is the only manned, jet-powered aircraft to exceed Mach 3.  A brief list of some of the records held by the Blackbird is:

July 28, 1976 – World absolute speed record – 2,193 mph

July 28, 1976 – World absolute record for sustained altitude – 85,069 feet

September 1, 1974 – New York to London – 1 hour 55 minutes 42 seconds

March 6, 1990 – Los Angeles to Washington, D.C – 1 hour 4 minutes 2 seconds


55 ft 7 in.


107 ft 5 in.


16 ft 6 in.


140,000 lbs (loaded)

Maximum Speed

2,193 MPH (Mach 3+)

Service Ceiling

over 85,000 ft


3,200 miles


Two Pratt & Whitney J-58 turbojets with 34,000 pounds thrust each




U.S. Air Force, Air Force Plant 2, Palmdale, California


Serial Number

Pima Air & Space Museum

Creating unlimited horizons in aerospace education through the preservation and presentation of the history of flight.

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