At the height of the Cold War in 1964, President Johnson announced a new aircraft dedicated to strategic reconnaissance. The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird spy plane flew more than three-and-a-half times the speed of sound, so fast that no other aircraft could catch it. Above 80,000 feet, its pilots had to wear full-pressure flight suits similar to what was used aboard the space shuttle. Developed by the renowned Lockheed Skunk Works, the SR-71 was an awesome aircraft in every respect, and it took the world by storm. The SR-71 was in service with the U.S. Air Force from 1964 to 1998, when it was withdrawn from use, superseded by satellite technology. Twelve of the thirty-two aircraft were destroyed in accidents, but none were ever lost to enemy action. Throughout its thirty-four-year career, the SR-71 was the world’s fastest and highest-flying operational manned aircraft. It set world records for altitude and speed: an absolute altitude record of 85,069 feet on July 28, 1974, and an absolute speed record of 2,193.2 miles per hour on the same day. On September 1, 1974, it set a speed and time record over a recognized course between New York and London (3,508 miles) of 1,435.587 miles per hour and an elapsed time of 1 hour, 54 minutes, 56.4 seconds. SR-71 covers every aspect of the SR-71’s development, manufacture, modification, and active service from the insider’s perspective of one its pilots and is lavishly illustrated with more than 200 photos.
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“The most feared aircraft of the Cold War had no guns, bombs or missiles . . . it shot pictures!”
—Lockheed advertisement Although the development of the SR-71 began over fifty years ago, the iconic Blackbird still looks like a futuristic spaceship. At an altitude of 88,000 feet and wearing pressure suits, its pilots, looking down at the curvature of the Earth from far above any other aircraft, certainly experienced some of what it was like to be an astronaut. The SR-71 had an unrefueled range of 3,500 miles, and its two Pratt and Whitney J-58 turbojets generated 60,000 pounds of thrust while guzzling 8,000 gallons of fuel per hour. Developed by the renowned Lockheed Skunk Works, the aircraft used cutting-edge technology to cope with the high speeds, altitudes, and temperatures to which it was subjected while its cameras took high-resolution images of multiple targets.Twelve of the thirty-two reconnaissance aircraft were destroyed in accidents, but none were lost to enemy action—the aircraft was simply too fast and too high up. Throughout its career, the SR-71 was the world’s fastest and highest-flying operational manned aircraft, setting a number of world records for altitude and speed. It was in service with the USAF and NASA from 1964 to 1999, when it was withdrawn from use, superseded by satellite technology and cut from tightening budgets.Col. Richard H. Graham, USAF (Ret.), experienced the SR-71 program from many angles—pilot, instructor, and wing commander—over fifteen years of assignments, and that knowledge and access makes for a comprehensive book, full of insider stories and rare photos and documents. From the precursor aircraft A-12 and FY-12 to the development, manufacture, and service of the SR-71, the legendary Blackbird flies again in SR-71: The Complete Illustrated History of the Blackbird, The World’s Highest, Fastest Plane.
Richard Graham was selected to enter the SR-71 program in 1974 at Beale AFB, California. After several years as a crew member, he became an instructor pilot, and in 1978 he was selected as the chief of the Standardization/Evaluation Division, which included the SR-71, U-2, and T-38 aircraft. In January 1980, he became the SR-71 squadron commander, 1st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, where he served until his assignment to Air War College, Maxwell AFB, Alabama, in 1981. Graham was a command pilot with more than 4,600 military flying hours. His military decorations and awards include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with eighteen oak leaf clusters, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with “V” device and one oak leaf cluster, Combat Readiness Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Vietnam Service Medal with four service stars, and Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with palm. Colonel Graham’s previous books on the SR-71 include Flying the SR-71 Blackbird, SR-71 Revealed: The Inside Story, and SR-71 Blackbird: Stories, Tales, and Legends. He lives in Plano, Texas.
At the height of the Cold War in 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that Lockheed had developed a strategic reconnaissance aircraft so fast that no other aircraft could catch it. The SR-71 Blackbird flew at over three and a half times the speed of sound—more than two thousand miles an hour—at 88,000 feet, over sixteen miles up. Snapping photos from three times the height of Everest, pilots had to wear full pressure suits like astronauts. Author Col. Richard H. Graham, USAF (Ret.), was one of those pilots. He also served as an instructor and wing commander for the Blackbird, and he brings all his personal knowledge to SR-71: The Complete Illustrated History of the Blackbird, The World’s Highest, Fastest Plane. With more than two hundred images—many never before published, including declassified documents—SR-71 immerses the reader in the design, development, testing, and active service of the aircraft from 1964 to 1999. The inside stories and behind-the-scenes photographs make SR-71 an exciting and comprehensive book on the iconic Blackbird.
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