• Monday, August 20, 2018

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

Discussion in 'Military History & Tactics' started by dexter, Aug 9, 2018.

  1. dexter

    dexter SENIOR MEMBER

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    The Cold War locked the United States and Soviet Union into a tense struggle for global influence and control. The first purpose-built American spy plane to fly over the Soviet Union was the Lockheed U-2. Neither fast nor stealthy, the U-2’s tactical advantage was that it could supposedly fly above soviet radar and air defenses.

    Yet even before the U-2 began surveillance missions, there were already plans for the next generation of spy plane. The need for a U-2 successor became more pressing as Soviet radars had tracked the U-2 since the very first reconnaissance flight. In 1960, a Soviet surface to air missile downed a U-2 deep within soviet airspace, heightening tensions between the two Cold War rivals. If America was to continue vital reconnaissance missions over the Soviet Union, it would need an aircraft with a combination of incredible speed, altitude and stealth.

    In 1959, the CIA chose Lockheed over rival Convair to build the next generation of spy plane. Lockheed’s highly classified spy plane would be known as the A-12. Originally designed for the CIA for reconnaissance, the A-12 was also developed as an interceptor prototype, along with a variant that could launch an unmanned reconnaissance drone. The SR-71 Blackbird, a later variant developed for the Air Force would go on to serve for decades while the other variants were quickly retired. Nearly 60 years after their first flight, the SR-71 and its A-12 successors remain the fastest air breathing jets to ever fly. Lockheed’s engineers had to innovate many aspects of the aircraft from unique engine characteristics, stealth features, to the extensive use of titanium for the first time in an aircraft.

    For years, the SR-71 Blackbirds were practically invulnerable, being able to outfly and out climb any threat, but by 1980s, Mig-31s and a new of generation of surface to air missiles began to erode the aircraft’s impunity. The SR-71 Blackbirds were finally retired from service in 1998. These reconnaissance aircraft were enormously expensive to operate and politics and infighting for defense budgets eventually had the SR-71s days numbered. 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.

     
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  2. war&peace

    war&peace ELITE MEMBER

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    It is a thing of past and no more usable or beneficial when far more advanced and permanent solutions are available at fraction of a cost.
     
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  3. SecularNationalist

    SecularNationalist SENIOR MEMBER

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    Speculation existed regarding a replacement for the SR-71, including a rumored aircraft codenamed Aurora. The limitations of reconnaissance satellites, which take up to 24 hours to arrive in the proper orbit to photograph a particular target, make them slower to respond to demand than reconnaissance planes. The fly-over orbit of spy satellites may also be predicted and can allow assets to be hidden when the satellite is above, a drawback not shared by aircraft. Thus, there are doubts that the US has abandoned the concept of spy planes to complement reconnaissance satellites.[113] Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are also used for much aerial reconnaissance in the 21st century, being able to overfly hostile territory without putting human pilots at risk, as well as being smaller and harder to detect than man-carrying aircraft.

    On 1 November 2013, media outlets reported that Skunk Works has been working on an unmanned reconnaissance airplane it has named SR-72, which would fly twice as fast as the SR-71, at Mach 6.[114][115] However, the Air Force is officially pursuing the Northrop Grumman RQ-180 UAV to take up the SR-71's strategic ISR role
    In June 2017, Lockheed Martin announced that the SR-72 would be in development by the early 2020s and is to top Mach 6. Executive Vice President Rob Weiss commented that "We've been saying hypersonics [are] two years away for the last 20 years, but all I can say is the technology is mature and we, along with DARPA and the services, are working hard to get that capability into the hands of our warfighters as soon as possible."[17]

    In January 2018, Lockheed Vice President Jack O'Banion gave a presentation that credited the advancements in additive manufacturing and computer modeling; stating that it would not have been possible to make the airplane five years ago; 3d printing allows a cooling system to be embedded in the engine.[18][19]

    In February 2018, Orlando Carvalho, Executive Vice President of aeronautics at Lockheed Martin, pushed back on reports of the SR-72's development stating that no SR-72 had been produced. He also clarified that hypersonic research is fueling weapons systems development, and that "Eventually as that technology is matured, it could ultimately enable the development of a reusable vehicle. Prior to this we may have referred to it as a "like an SR-72", but now the terminology of choice is "reusable vehicle".