The Blackbird was so fast that it outflew missiles. It was so effective that during its active use from 1964 to 1998, none were ever lost to enemy action.
The plane was made from titanium, allowing it to withstand heat generated from flying over Mach 3 (2,045 mph). It got the “Blackbird” nickname because designers painted the aircraft black to disperse the heat.
Even to this day, the SR-71 holds the world record for the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft. And get this: the Blackbird’s final flight from Los Angeles to Washington DC took only 64 minutes and 20 seconds.
But with the hypersonic SR-72, which can fly five times faster than sound, that record might soon be broken.
Bloomberg reports that Lockheed Martin has been busy developing hypersonic “scramjets” of late. In such aircraft, the combustion occurs in supersonic airflow rather than a tank. However, engineering such planes haven’t been easy.
Defense analyst Richard Aboulafia told Bloomberg that planes like the SR-72 may let the U.S. military carry out bombing runs so fast that they won’t be detected. Back in 2013, Lockheed’s engineers said they are developing an SR-72 that could fly at Mach 6 (4,603 mph) by 2030.
The tight-lipped response to the SR-72 rumors is normal. Naturally, the U.S. military wouldn’t be too keen about other countries finding out about their capabilities.
During the SR-71’s development, the government tried to keep the Blackbird under wraps but a former U.S. Navy admiral named John Pearson figured it out by 1961, just three years after development started.
It’s just interesting that this time, we found out about the SR-72 from Lockheed Martin themselves.