SR-71 Blackbird: The first stealth fast aircraft
The U.S. Air Force will begin building a fleet of a hudred new B-21 Raider stealth bombers in the 2020s and plans to keep seventy-six upgraded B-52s in service into the 2040s. The Lockheed SR-71 and its A-12 predecessor derived from the CIA’s 1956 Rainbow Study initiated in recognition of the Lockheed U-2 spy plane’s vulnerability to Soviet SAMs. The study stated that a plane capable of surviving SAM systems must have a small radar cross-section, use radar-absorptive materials, operate above 80,000 feet and fly at supersonic speeds. Those requirements far exceeded the aviation and engine technology of the time. The Lockheed SR-71, was able to cruise near the edge of space and outfly a missile. To this day, it holds the records for the highest altitude in horizontal flight and the fastest speed for a non-rocket powered aircraft. It was part of a family of spy planes built to venture into enemy territory, without being shot down or even detected, in a time before satellites and drones. The black paint job, designed to dissipate heat, earned it the nickname Blackbird, and paired with the sleek lines of the long fuselage, made the plane look unlike anything that had come before -- a design that hasn't lost any of its brilliance.
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