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

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

Thanks to SquareSpace for making this
video possible and for helping launch my new Mustard store. More on that after
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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About the Author: Michael Flood


    America: fast bird go faster nyoom nyoom faster than rocket go into space sneak sneak radar no detect fuck you
    And thats exactly what they did

  2. I had a 3' long model I made and hung from my ceiling in my bedroom. When I became a teenager I put away all the stuff that I thought made me a dorky kid, but I still had that up, it was just too damn cool.

  3. I heard from an old SR-71 engineer that when thy set the official speed record of 2,198 mph, they were only using one engine.

  4. Earth : too hot for your plane?

    Space: That’s alright come up here we have less heating more radiation plus you cant fly well . . . . Or float?

    SR-71 Blackbird : no thanks I’ll stay . . .

  5. You imagine flying so fast that the plane literally fucking disintegrates around you like what do you fucking do at that point

  6. my uncle Mike was a reconisens person that flew the sr-71 and that is one of the only thing cool about my famliy

  7. It was never called Sr 71 it was called rs 71 rs stands for reconnaissance strike 71
    But the president accidentally called it sr71 at the opening (in the cold war Lockheed wouldn't correct the president so the switched the name to Sr 71

  8. I like your video very much. It's really great. I'll keep an eye on your channel. I am your fan and I will support you.

  9. Short answer is it flies faster than anything you could shoot at it. The only thing from today would be a laser weapon.

  10. We Americans know so does Russia we both spy on each other. It's a necessity for security for both countries…. You will have idea be of what your adversaries are up too.

  11. the real value which i dont see anyone talking about, the sr71 had the ability to "bait" attacks on itself. You know how expensive a surface to air missile is? Get some real ballsy guys to do circles over an enemy and make them waste a bunch of supplies.

  12. Lol this plane has a rocket engine!
    The Russians have planes with standard jet engine but still it is faster than the american jets!

  13. For the international audience, what is 500 degrees Fahrenheit in standard metric units?? And also "miles", what miles are you referring to? US or UK, etc.?
    Publishing clips n an international channel requires you, producers, to instruct your narrators to an international audience. Imperial units are outdated and you must avoid them.

  14. Blackbird:*flies on the Soviet Airspace and gets spotted*

    The Blackbird dodges it all

    Also Soviets:Now this is an Avengers level threat………

  15. 6:43 it does. It provides real time enemy position and even the direction that they are looking on your minimap. Jesus check your sources.

  16. Short answer: Invulnerable because it's too damn fast.
    Basically the equivalent of having a faster car than the police interceptors trying to pursue.

    My other favorite thing about designing such an aircraft is the scramble by the opposing power to catch up and intercept it. Then that tech used to intercept is not needed when the plane is retired. Meaning the US just won because the Russians couldn't bring the SR-71 down, and by the time they could it was retired.

  17. We actually still have 1 functional Blackbird left.
    My Dad did two deployments in Okinawa working with them as AGE on the Buick engine start carts while they did missions skipping off the atmosphere on those million dollar missions. Years later, he went to McClellan AFB / Beale to work with jammers.
    Also, another cool fact for some of you besides the SR-71 and it not really being allowed to and not getting the full credit for the potential things it was able and could have done you can't look up online.
    The Global Hawk (newest one), essentially "skips" off the atmosphere as well.
    The top is painted white so the sun doesn't cook the plane.
    I jet literally just flew by as I'm typing this.
    Cheers from WRAFB.

  18. Narrator's voice is annoying as sauce. Can't watch. Do you have to end every sentence in a high-pitch crescendo?

  19. So was the Titanic, but at mach 3.2 and a little predictive planning there could already be a missile in the path that cannot be changed quick enough now that there is hyper-sonic speed 2-3 times as fast. Besides America probably lost the technology and its too hard to get back. Guess you`ll never guess where a lot of that Titanium came from.

  20. The description states “SR-71 and it’s A-12 successors” however it should be predecessor(s).

    Side note: Dick Cheney ruins all the good things… the F-14D, ASF-14, Tomcat 21, A-6F, A-12 (Avenger II Attack Jet) and basically Naval Aviation.

  21. When world war 2 ended Soviet Union got parts of Finland's ground before it ended Finland had it so in the map it shows an Soviet base is in Finland's Territory

  22. Just like the U.S. today, total hypocrites. The U.S. invades another countries sovereign air space, then when they get caught as the aggressor, they blame the perceived enemy, for merely defending their territory.

    Then Hellyweird makes another propaganda film about the incidents and how heroic the Americans are.

  23. Humans have lost their pioneering prowess. They never build/test anything pioneering anymore. It's all previous incarnations of old tech & zero risk culture.

  24. Waste of money and time, typical america, build weapons, start wars, let your countries people suffer forno reason, idiots

  25. You know that the most interesting thing you don’t know and missed is that the SR-71 Blackbird was made of Soviet titanium, since in the USA they could not produce high-quality titanium in such large volumes.

  26. I heard a black bird called ATC for clearance to 80,000 feet the new tower guy laughed and said if you can get that high you have clearance. The Black Bird pilot said descending now.

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