SR-71 Blackbird Wood Model Airplane
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The SR-71 served with the U.S. Air Force from 1964 to 1998. Of the 32 aircraft built, 12 were destroyed in accidents, and none lost to enemy action. The SR-71 has been given several nicknames, including Blackbird and Habu, the latter in reference to an Okinawan species ofpit viper. Since 1976, it has held the world record for the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft, a record previously held by the YF-12. Lockheed's previous reconnaissance aircraft was the U-2, which was designed for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). In 1960, while overflying the USSR, the U-2 flown by Francis Gary Powers was shot down by Soviet surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). This highlighted the U-2's vulnerability due to its relatively low speed, and paved the way for the Lockheed A-12, also designed for the CIA by Clarence Johnson at Lockheed's Skunk Works. The A-12 was the precursor of the SR-71. The A-12's first flight took place at Groom Lake (Area 51), Nevada, on 25 April 1962. It was equipped with the less powerful Pratt & Whitney J75 engines due to protracted development of the intended Pratt & Whitney J58. The J58s were retrofitted as they became available, and became the standard powerplant for all subsequent aircraft in the series (A-12, YF-12, M-21) as well as the follow-on SR-71 aircraft. Thirteen A-12s were built. Two A-12 variants were also developed, including three YF-12A interceptor prototypes, and two M-21 drone carrier variants. The cancellation of A-12 program was announced on 28 December 1966, due to budget concerns, and because of the forthcoming SR-71. The A-12 flew missions over Vietnam and North Korea before its retirement in 1968. The SR-71 designator is a continuation of the pre-1962 bomber series, which ended with the XB-70 Valkyrie. During the later period of its testing, the B-70 was proposed for a reconnaissance/strike role, with an RS-70 designation. When it was clear that the A-12 performance potential was much greater, the Air Force ordered a variant of the A-12 in December 1962. Originally named R-12[N 1] by Lockheed, the Air Force version was longer and heavier than the A-12, with a longer fuselage to hold more fuel, two seats in the cockpit, and reshaped chines. Reconnaissance equipment included signals intelligence sensors, a side-looking radar and a photo camera. The CIA's A-12 was a better photo reconnaissance platform than the Air Force's R-12, since the A-12 flew somewhat higher and faster, and with only one pilot it had room to carry a superior camera and more instruments. SR-71 assembly line at Skunk Works During the 1964 campaign, Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater repeatedly criticized President Lyndon B. Johnson and his administration for falling behind the Soviet Union in developing new weapons. Johnson decided to counter this criticism by revealing the existence of the YF-12A Air Force interceptor, which also served as cover for the still-secret A-12, and the Air Force reconnaissance model since July 1964. Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtis LeMay preferred the SR (Strategic Reconnaissance) designation and wanted the RS-71 to be named SR-71. Before the July speech, LeMay lobbied to modify Johnson's speech to read SR-71 instead of RS-71. The media transcript given to the press at the time still had the earlier RS-71 designation in places, creating the story that the president had misread the aircraft's designation. Production of the SR-71 totaled 32 aircraft with 29 SR-71As, 2 SR-71Bs, and the single SR-71C.