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Why Was This Plane Invulnerable: The SR-71 Blackbird Story

Why Was This Plane Invulnerable: The SR-71 Blackbird Story


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this video. In the midst of the Cold War, two Mig-25s race to intercept a threat
along the Soviet border. They’re the fastest interceptors ever built, and if
they really push their engines, they can reach an incredible Mach 3.2. But it’s
not enough. Because what they’re chasing can outrun and out-climb any threat. A
plane engineered to be invulnerable. The Cold War locked the United States
and Soviet Union into a tense a struggle for global influence and control. Both
sides poured enormous resources into military technologies. But getting an
upper hand means knowing your opponent’s next move. And in the 1950s, little was
known about facilities deep within the Soviet Union. An extensive network of
radar stations, surface-to-air missile sites, and interceptor air bases kept the
Americans away. Until 1956, when U-2 spy planes began flying over the Soviet
Union. Neither fast nor stealthy, the U-2s had one critical advantage. At 70,000 feet,
they could fly above Soviet air defenses. U.S. President Eisenhower was even
assured, Soviet radars couldn’t detect the U-2 at such high altitudes. But it
turns out, the Americans were wrong. The Soviets had tracked the U-2 since day one, and it was only a matter of time before they’d be able to shoot one down. Simply
flying high wasn’t enough. Even before the U-2 began its surveillance missions,
there were already plans underway to replace it. Because true impunity over
Soviet airspace would need a combination of incredible speed, altitude, and stealth.
And this led the Americans to explore some pretty radical spy plane concepts,
like a ramjet powered aircraft that would be deployed from the bottom of a
supersonic B-58. But in 1959 the CIA chose Lockheed to develop the next
generation of spy plane. Meanwhile, the U-2 continued to fly over
the Soviet Union. But not for very long, because in the spring of 1960, a Soviet
surface-to-air missile finally managed to bring one down. The captured pilot and
wreckage were paraded around the Soviet Union used as proof of Western
aggression. As tensions rose, now more than ever the US needed a replacement
for the U-2. And what Lockheed developed, would be
unlike any aircraft ever built. A plane that nearly 60 years after its first
flight, remains the fastest air-breathing jet to ever fly. Lockheed’s
highly-classified spy plane would be known as the A-12. Originally used by the
CIA for reconnaissance, the A-12 was also developed into an interceptor prototype,
armed with air-to-air missiles, along with a variant that could launch an
unmanned reconnaissance drone. But it was the SR-71 Blackbird, a variant developed
for the Air Force that would go on to serve for decades, while earlier versions
were quickly retired. The Blackbird could cruise at Mach 3.2 right near the edge
of space, and do it for hours on end. To achieve this, Lockheed’s engineers had
to innovate pretty much everything from scratch. To sustain such incredible
speeds the SR-71 and its predecessors were powered by engines often described
as turboramjets. Below Mach 2 they functioned like conventional
after-burning jet engines. But above that, they behaved more like ramjets, as an
inlet cone adjusted to bypass air around the engine and directly into the
afterburner. At mach 3.2 the SR-71’s exterior would heat up to beyond 500
degrees Fahrenheit, easily hot enough to soften aircraft aluminum. Lockheed
engineers used titanium for 92 percent of the aircraft, and in the 1960s this
required inventing entirely new fabrication technologies. It’s unusual
shape did more than just spook UFO enthusiasts, it helped reduce its radar
signature as did its special black paint, which earned the SR-71 its Blackbird
name. The A-12 and SR-71 were first deployed
over North Korea and Vietnam, where they were unsuccessfully targeted by over 800
surface-to-air missiles. But the spy plane never flew into Soviet airspace. At
least not officially, because another shoot-down over the Soviet Union would
be catastrophic. So instead, the SR-71 flew along its
borders, using its powerful side-looking radar and cameras to peer hundreds of
miles into Soviet territory. And that frustrated the Soviets. In 1976, Viktor
Belenko defected to the west, by escaping the Soviet Union in his Mig-25. He
described the frustration of trying to intercept Blackbirds. The MiG’s were
Mach 3 capable, but only for a few minutes at a time. Not for hours like the
Blackbird. Nor could they climb to reach the SR-71’s incredible altitude. Even
their enormous R40 missiles lacked the guidance needed to strike the SR-71
head-on. For years, the Blackbirds were practically invulnerable. They could out
fly and out-climb any threat. But by the 1980s, Mig-31s were roaming the
skies, equipped with sophisticated radar and long-range R33 missiles. They posed
a legitimate threat, as did a new generation of Soviet surface-to-air
missiles. But the greatest threat to the Blackbird wasn’t an enemy missile or jet.
It was itself. No Blackbird was ever lost on a mission, but more than a third of
the 50 built were destroyed in accidents. One literally disintegrated around its
pilots. They were also enormously expensive to operate. Each one siphoning
about 300 million dollars a year out of America’s defense budget. A fleet of
special aerial refuelers and a small army of support and maintenance staff were
needed just to keep these planes mission ready. And advances in spy satellites
aerial drones and the SR-71 s inability to deliver surveillance data in real
time, diminished some of the plane’s utility. Add to that, politics and
infighting for defense budgets and by the late 1980s, the SR-71’s days were numbered. They were officially retired in 1998,
with two sent to NASA for testing. The technology behind the A-12 and SR-71 is
now well over fifty years old. Yet somehow these incredible planes
still speak to us. Not about the past, but the future. Leaving us with a sense of
wonder unlike any other in aviation history. A few months ago, I launched my
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Reader Comments

  1. USAF guy – "Naaah, this plane cannot be made"

    Lockheed – "Does cost matters?"

    USAF guy- "No, not really"

    Lockheed – "Hold my beer"

  2. God I love this video! Have watched it mayby 30 times, the story telling and fact! Just waow!
    Love your channel btw!

  3. in 1974 a mig 25 locked on sr 71, after this event sr 71s never used on russian airspace ,but he didnt even mention ,i am not an american nor russian but this video kind a usa propoganda ,be objective

  4. On numerous occasions, the Russians sent up MIG 25's to try and catch, intercept and shoot down the SR-71 but sadly for them…….the US spy plane hit the accelerator and left them for dust.

  5. Actually the Mig 25 has hit an altitude of over 120,000 feet before so it is higher. And only a little over 30 SR-71 Blackbirds were made compared to the 1190 MIG-25’s. I can still respect the SR-71 despite all of that.

  6. So, if i go fast enough i wilk be immortal? Time to jump off a plane and break terminal velocity with afterburners attached to my vest
    Ok, i guess this is how this works

    Super fast = immortality (Terminal velocity) = super fast
    Hit ground + Fast = No damage

    Ok guys gonna do it see ya later

    Edit : yo i fucking died lol dont do this shit bye

  7. Soviet influence map is wrong. European part of Turkey looks like under Soviet influence. By the way great videos, 3d renders and animations.

  8. The largest sources of titanium were all in the Soviet Union, so Skunkworks at Lockheed had to purchase all of the titanium from the Soviet Union through dummy corporations so they wouldn't figure out what was happening. If you want to learn about the SR71 an other amazing stuff like that, read the book Skunkworks.

  9. Curious how it's the "fastest" 60 years later. I'm no conscpiracy theorist, but it really makes you wonder to what extent is the government hiding new technology

  10. I met a gentleman a while a go, very humble and polite, I was doing some work for him and I noticed a picture on the wall of an SR-71 and I told him I was impressed by the planes capabilities, he smiled and said "you know, I designed the cluster inside the cockpit". I'm not going to lie, I was skeptical at first. Then he said "come I will show you some pictures" and he proceeds to pull an album with all sorts of pictures; he said "I'm really not supposed to show this ones to no one but what the heck". It was the pictures of how the government decommissioned the F-117. I regret not asking the gentleman for a autograph picture of the Blackbird to this day!!!

  11. Bro, they didn't just use Titanium… They invented their own Titanium Alloy. An Alloy that tempered the plane each and every time it flew from the heat produced between the plane and the friction of air. It would temper it PERFECTLY, as to where the armor hardened each and every time, without an increase in brittleness. The total strength of the armor was Indefinite.

    Like, That's how you Engineer the Fuck out of a Plane!
    (Fun Fact: the paint of the SR-71 would absorb radar waves)

  12. The Swedes getting a missile lock on the SR-71 is like a grown man wrestling with his 5-year-old kid and losing on purpose. An ALLY of the US isn't going to send fighters to shoot down their spy plane. And pilots on all sides knew that. If that were a real hostile situation, that Viggen pilot wouldn't have had a chance in hell. But yeah, the fucking SWEDES of all people caught the SR-71. This isn't cross country skiing we're talking about here.

  13. Invulnerable? I would say that it was very vulnerable over the Baltic. "Flygvapnet" had several locks on them and we would "hunt" them and mess with them. One SR-71 pilot said that he saw a Viggen (Saab Ja-37 Viggen) come up on his right side at about 12 000–15 000 meters and raise his nose ahead of the Blackbird. The Viggen then rolled and dove away. We intercepted one when it was flying over Gotland. They escorted it to West Germany after it was confirmed that it had suffered an engine loss.

    "They were always hunting us." Sr-71 pilot about the Swedish Viggen.

  14. international boarders has had zero meaning to the US since day one. "invaded soviet airspace for a decade without being shot down YAY us!"

  15. I think what made the SR-71 especially cool was because how high it could fly not its speed. In the 70s and late 60s, there were Soviet anti-air missiles that could reach speeds up to Mach 4.4, however it couldn't fly to the enormous altitude of 80,000 feet. Even that it's disputed, official records say it could fly as high as 100,000 feet or maybe even higher.

    Rendering anti-air missiles useless because they would simply run out of fuel before it reached that altitude. Hell, this thing is so fast it could cross the entire planet in just 4 hours (approximately).

  16. Now that i think about it, if we raid area 51, we could find the successor to the sr71. And fly at mach 7 out of area 5 with 100 aliens.

  17. Never knew the Avro Arrow had more powerful engines then the SR-71 cause the arrow can produce around 52,700 pounds of thrust in just one of its engines. It’s engines were also built by Pratt & Whitney.

  18. Wasn't the Avro Arrow cancelled shortly before the SR-71 began development? How much of the expertise that went into the Arrow (especially the titanium alloys) was re-used for the Blackbird?

  19. The college I'm at has an aerospace museum on campus, that has an actual SR-71 in it. Its pretty much why I came here.

  20. My question is, how tf did we build something this advanced back in the day yet planes today like the Boeing 737-800MAX be taking innocent lives lol?

  21. There will never be a plane quite like it, not even close. Americans build the best … when they want too…or HAVE TOO.

  22. This aircraft is ridiculous junk. It was never shot down but a third of the entire number produced crashed without any enemy action. That is absolutely pathetic.

  23. The first space ships are now as old as the first planes were when people flew to space… development has slowed down a lot!

  24. Lockheed: We are going to build a super fast jet that will go so fast that it has to be built with titanium skin- but we don't have enough titanium in the USA- Lockheed: no problem, we will just buy titanium from Russia……..

  25. ”But the greatest threat to the SR-71 Blackbird wasn’t an enemy jet or missile. It was itself.”
    “One even disnetegrated around it’s pilot.”
    DJ Khaled
    Suffering from Success

  26. The US purchased refined titanium from USSR, because up to now only USSR has that technology. LMFAO. Titanium is so costly, and Soviets let SR-71 survive to fill up their wallet. That's all about SR-71 – a typical sextoy. In fact SR-71 is easy to shoot down, because it only flies a straight trajectory.

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