The Fastest plane
Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird #61-7958:(3529.6 kmph/2193.2 mph):
The Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird” was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3+ strategic reconnaissance aircraft. It was developed as a black project from the Lockheed A-12 reconnaissance aircraft in the 1960s by the Lockheed Skunk Works. Clarence “Kelly” Johnson was responsible for many of the design’s innovative concepts. During reconnaissance missions the SR-71 operated at high speeds and altitudes to allow it to outrace threats. If a surface-to-air missile launch was detected, the standard evasive action was simply to accelerate and outfly the missile.
The SR-71 served with the U.S. Air Force from 1964 to 1998. Of the 32 aircraft built, 12 were lost in accidents, though none to enemy action. The SR-71 has been given several nicknames, including Blackbird and Habu, the latter in reference to an Okinawan species ofpit viper. Since 1976, it has held the world record for the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft, a record previously held by the YF-12.
The Fastest Plane Specifications (SR-71A)
The Fastest Plane General characteristics
- Crew: 2 (Pilot and Reconnaissance Systems Officer)
- Payload: 3,500 lb (1,600 kg) of sensors
- Length: 107 ft 5 in (32.74 m)
- Wingspan: 55 ft 7 in (16.94 m)
- Height: 18 ft 6 in (5.64 m)
- Wing area: 1,800 ft2 (170 m2)
- Empty weight: 67,500 lb (30,600 kg)
- Loaded weight: 152,000 lb (69,000 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 172,000 lb (78,000 kg)
- Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney J58-1 continuous-bleed afterburning turbojets, 34,000 lbf (151 kN) each
- Wheel track: 16 ft 8 in (5.08 m)
- Wheelbase: 37 ft 10 in (11.53 m)
- Aspect ratio: 1.7
The Fastest Plane Performance
- Maximum speed: Mach 3.3 (2,200+ mph, 3,530+ km/h, 1,900+ knots) at 80,000 ft (24,000 m)
- Range: 2,900 nmi (5,400 km)
- Ferry range: 3,200 nmi (5,925 km)
- Service ceiling: 85,000 ft (25,900 m)
- Rate of climb: 11,810 ft/min (60 m/s)
- Wing loading: 84 lb/ft² (410 kg/m²)
- Thrust/weight: 0.44
The Fastest Plane Background
Lockheed’s previous reconnaissance aircraft was the relatively slow U-2, designed for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The 1960 downing of Francis Gary Powers’ U-2 underscored the aircraft’s vulnerability and the need for faster reconnaissance aircraft. The CIA turned again to Kelly Johnson and Lockheed’s Skunk Works, who developed the A-12 and would go on to build upon its design concepts for the SR-71.
The A-12 first flew at Groom Lake (Area 51), Nevada, on 25 April 1962. Thirteen were built; two variants were also developed, including three YF-12A interceptor prototypes, and two M-21 drone carrier variants. The aircraft was meant to be powered by the Pratt & Whitney J58 engine, but development ran over schedule, and it was equipped instead with the less powerful Pratt & Whitney J75. The J58s were retrofitted as they became available, and became the standard powerplant for all subsequent aircraft in the series (A-12, YF-12, M-21) as well as the SR-71. The A-12 flew missions over Vietnam and North Korea before its retirement in 1968. The program’s cancellation was announced on 28 December 1966, due both to budget concerns and because of the forthcoming SR-71.
The SR-71 designator is a continuation of the pre-1962 bomber series, which ended with the XB-70 Valkyrie. During the later period of its testing, the B-70 was proposed for a reconnaissance/strike role, with an RS-70 designation. When it was clear that the A-12 performance potential was much greater, the Air Force ordered a variant of the A-12 in December 1962.Originally named R-12[ by Lockheed, the Air Force version was longer and heavier than the A-12, with a longer fuselage to hold more fuel, two seats in the cockpit, and reshaped chines. Reconnaissance equipment included signals intelligence sensors, a side-looking radar and a photo camera. The CIA’s A-12 was a better photo reconnaissance platform than the Air Force’s R-12, since the A-12 flew somewhat higher and faster, and with only one pilot it had room to carry a superior camera and more instruments.
During the 1964 campaign, Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater repeatedly criticized President Lyndon B. Johnson and his administration for falling behind the Soviet Union in developing new weapons. Johnson decided to counter this criticism by revealing the existence of the YF-12A Air Force interceptor, which also served as cover for the still-secret A-12, and the Air Force reconnaissance model since July 1964. Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtis LeMay preferred the SR (Strategic Reconnaissance) designation and wanted the RS-71 to be named SR-71. Before the July speech, LeMay lobbied to modify Johnson’s speech to read SR-71 instead of RS-71. The media transcript given to the press at the time still had the earlier RS-71 designation in places, creating the story that the president had misread the aircraft’s designation.
In 1968, the Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara canceled the F-12 interceptor program; the specialized tooling used to manufacture both the YF-12 and the SR-71 was also ordered destroyed. Production of the SR-71 totaled 32 aircraft with 29 SR-71As, 2 SR-71Bs, and the single SR-71C.
The Fastest Plane Fuel
The aircraft was prone to minor fuel leaks while on the ground. While slippery, it was not an urgent fire hazard as JP-7 had a relatively high flash point(140 °F, 60 °C). This also allowed its use as a coolant and hydraulic fluid in the SR-71. JP-7 was extremely difficult to light. To start the engines, triethylborane (TEB), which ignites on contact with air, was injected to produce temperatures high enough to ignite the JP-7. The TEB produced a characteristic green flame that can often be seen during engine ignition. TEB was also used to ignite the afterburners.
The Fastest Plane Engines
The SR-71’s Pratt & Whitney J58-P4 engine was a considerable innovation of their era; the engine could produce a static thrust of 32,500 lbf (145 kN). The J58 was most efficient around Mach 3.2, the Blackbird’s typical cruising speed. A unique hybrid, the engine can be thought of as a turbojet inside a ramjet. At lower speeds, the turbojet provided most of the compression and most of the energy from fuel combustion. At higher speeds, the turbojet largely ceased to provide thrust; instead, air was compressed by the shock cones and fuel burned in the afterburner.
SR-71 Blackbird engine on display at theBattleship Memorial Park
In detail, air was initially compressed (and thus also heated) by the shock cones, which generated shock waves that slowed the air down to subsonic speeds relative to the engine. The air then passed through four compressor stages and was split by movable vanes: some of the air entered the compressor fans (“core-flow” air), while the rest of the air went straight to the afterburner (via six bypass tubes). The air traveling through the turbojet was further compressed (and further heated), and then fuel was added to it in the combustion chamber: it then reached the maximum temperature anywhere in the Blackbird, just low enough to keep the turbine blades from softening. After passing through the turbine (and thus being cooled somewhat), the core-flow air went through the afterburner and met with any bypass air.
Around Mach 3, the increased heating from the shock cone compression, plus the heating from the compressor fans, was enough to get the core air to high temperatures, and little fuel could be added in the combustion chamber without melting the turbine blades. This meant the whole compressor-combustor-turbine set-up in the core of the engine provided less power, and the Blackbird flew predominantly on air bypassed straight to the afterburners, forming a large ramjet effect. The maximum speed was limited by the specific maximum temperature for the compressor inlet of 800 °F (427 °C). 1990s studies of inlets of this type indicated that newer technology could allow for inlet speeds with a lower limit of Mach 6.AG330 start cart, Hill Aerospace Museum Originally, the Blackbird’s engines started up with the assistance of an external engine referred to as a “start cart“. The cart included two Buick WildcatV8 engines positioned underneath the aircraft. The two engines powered a single, vertical driveshaft connecting to a single J58 engine. Once one engine was started, the cart was wheeled to the other side of the aircraft to start the other engine. The operation was deafening. Later, big-block Chevrolet engines were used. Eventually, a quieter, pneumatic start system was developed for use at Blackbird main operating bases, but the start carts remained to support recovery team Blackbird starts at diversion landing sites not equipped to start J-58 engines.
Since 1976, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird has held the world record for the fastest ‘air-breathing manned aircraft’ with a recorded speed of 1,905.81 knots (2,193.2 mph; 3,529.6 km/h). That works out to a staggering 36.55 miles/58.83 km per minute.
The Blackbird was so fast that its strategy against surface-to-air missiles was to simply accelerate and outfly them. Below you will find an extensive gallery of this iconic aircraft along with information on the history, design and records the plane holds to this day.