7 wild photos of the SR-71 Blackbird’s afterburners in action

source
NASA

The SR-71 Blackbird spy plane is the fastest and highest-flying production aircraft to ever hit the skies.

Despite the US Air Force officially retiring the Blackbird in 1990 (although NASA would use two of them for research in that decade), it remains to this day one of the most popular and captivating aircraft.

The SR-71 was developed in the early 1960’s in response to two U-2 spy planes getting shot down – one over the Soviet Union and one over Cuba.

Thousands of missiles would be fired at Blackbirds during the 24 years it was in service, but the US never lost one because of its incredible speed.

Check out the photos below:


The SR-71 Blackbird was powered by two Pratt & Whitney J58 axial-flow turbojet engines.

source
NASA

Source: US Air Force


Each engine gave the Blackbird 32,500 pounds of thrust.

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NASA’s SR-71 streaks into the twilight with full afterburner on the first night/science flight from the Dryden Flight Research Facility, Mar. 9, 1993.
source
mashleymorgan / Flickr

Source: US Air Force


The Blackbird had a maximum speed of Mach 3+, which is more than 2,000 mph or three times the speed of sound.

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mashleymorgan / Flickr

Source: US Air Force


In fact, US Air Force pilot Eldon Joersz got a Blackbird up to 2,193 mph (Mach 3.2) in 1976 over Edwards Air Force Base in California, setting a world record for fastest piloted jet flight.

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mashleymorgan / Flickr

Joersz also set a highest-altitude record during the 1976 flight, reaching nearly 85,069 feet — over 16 miles above the Earth.

Source: Airspacemag.com


And the records still stand today.

source
US Air Force

Source: Airspacemag.com


But less than 20% of the Blackbird’s thrust used to hit Mach 3 was from the engines.

source
US Air Force

“During high-speed cruise conditions the balance of total thrust was produced by the unique design of the engine inlet and a moveable conical spike at the front of each engine nacelle,” according to NASA.

“Under these conditions, air entering the inlets bypassed the engines, going directly to the afterburners and ejector nozzles, thus acting as ramjets.”


More than 4,000 missiles were shot at Blackbirds during its 24 year career, but the aircraft were so fast, they simply accelerated away. Another advantage was their ability to fly at super high-altitude.

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Flickr via mashleymorgan

Despite no Blackbirds ever being hit by missiles, they did have a 30% crash rate.

Source: Business Insider