Century Wings CW001616 USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft - 61-7958 "Ichi Ban", 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Beale AFB, CA, 1990 (1:72 Scale)
"You know the part in 'High Flight' where it talks about putting out your hand to touch the face of God? Well, when we're at speed and altitude in the SR, we have to slow down and descend in order to do that."
- USAF Lt. Col. Gil Bertelson, SR-71 pilot, in 'SR-71 Blackbird: Stories, Tales and Legends,' 2002
The Lockheed SR-71 was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3 strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft by the Lockheed Skunk Works. The SR-71 was unofficially named the Blackbird, and called the Habu by its crews. Clarence "Kelly" Johnson was responsible for many of the design's innovative concepts. A defensive feature of the aircraft was its high speed and operating altitude, whereby, if a surface-to-air missile launch were detected, standard evasive action was simply to accelerate. The SR-71 line was in service from 1964 to 1998, with 12 of the 32 aircraft being destroyed in accidents, though none were lost to enemy action.
The Air Force ordered a reconnaissance version in December 1962. Originally named R-12, it was later renamed SR-71. The SR-71 was longer and heavier than the A-12. Its fuselage was lengthened for additional fuel capacity to increase range. A second seat was added to the cockpit and the chines were reshaped. Reconnaissance equipment included signals intelligence sensors, a side-looking radar and a photo camera.
During the 1964 campaign, Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater continually criticized President Lyndon B. Johnson and his administration for falling behind the Soviet Union in the research and development of new weapons systems. Johnson decided to counter this criticism by releasing information on the hitherto highly classified A-12 program, and later the existence of the reconnaissance version.
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 the reconnaissance/strike role, with an RS-70 designation. When it was clear that the Lockheed A-12 performance potential was much greater, USAF decided to pursue an RS-71 version of the A-12 rather than the RS-70. However, then-USAF Chief of Staff General Curtis LeMay preferred the SR (Strategic Reconnaissance) designation and wanted the RS-71 to be named SR-71. Before the Blackbird was to be announced by President Johnson on February 29th, 1964. 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 myth that the president had misread the aircraft's designation.
This public disclosure of the program and its renaming came as a shock to everyone at the Skunk Works and to Air Force personnel involved in the program. All of the printed maintenance manuals, flight crew handbooks, training slides and materials were labeled "R-12"; while the June 18th, 1965 Certificates of Completion issued by the Skunkworks to the first Air Force Flight Crews and their Wing Commander were labeled "R-12 Flight Crew Systems Indoctrination, Course VIII". Following Johnson's speech the name change was taken as an order from the Commander-in-Chief, and immediate reprinting began of new materials, including 29,000 blueprints, to be retitled "SR-71".
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale replica of a USAF Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird Reconnaissance Aircraft that was attached to the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, and flown during 1990.
Wingspan: 9.25 inches
Length: 17.75 inches
Release Date: December 2015
Historical Account: "Faster than a Speeding Bullet" - One of America's premier spy planes, the SR-71 Blackbirds, had a final fling with the history books today, setting a transcontinental speed record before retiring to a museum home.
The black, dagger-shaped aircraft, which like the rest of the fleet is being retired by the Air Force because of budget cuts, flashed from coast to coast in 68 minutes 17 seconds, arriving at Dulles International Airport outside Washington to the cheers of hundreds of onlookers. The old record was 3 hours 38 minutes, set in 1963 by a Boeing 707.
The Blackbird took a running start, refueling over the Pacific Ocean at 60,000 feet before heading east from the California coastline and crossing its finish line near Salisbury, Md. The plane then refueled before cruising in to Dulles Airport.
The flight also set three other speed records certified by the National Aeronautic Association: 2,153.24 miles per hour between Los Angeles and Washington; 2,242.48 m.p.h. between St. Louis and Cincinnati, and 2,200.94 m.p.h. between Kansas City, Mo., and Washington. Sonic booms were reported in communities along the flight path as the plane completed its race across the continent. Two men were aboard: Lieut. Col. Ed Yeilding, the pilot, and Lieut. Col. J. T. Vida, the reconnaissance systems officer.
Against overcast skies at Dulles, the plane ended its flight by dipping as low as 200 feet above the runway as it whistled past an official greeting gate, balls of fire trailing its huge engines as the pilot suddenly pointed the pencil-shaped fuselage toward the heavens. It was one of the few public displays of a Blackbird. And despite the rush to publicize this final run, most details of the plane's design and capabilities are still top-secret. The Air Force will not even say how many Blackbirds exist. The plane that made the flight has been donated to the Smithsonian Institution, which plans to display it at a Dulles Airport wing of the National Air and Space Museum. (courtesy Associated Press)