One of the most astounding airplanes ever built has to be the Lockheed Martin A-12 Oxcart -slash- SR-71. Put together by the secretive Skunk Works at Lockheed back in the late 1950s, the SR-71 flew higher, faster, and further than any other aircraft ever built, and did it with remarkable stealth. While certainly not as stealthy as later aircraft (e.g. the F117) the SR-71 did have a remarkably small radar cross-section for such a large aircraft.Of course, when you fly at three times the speed of sound at 80,000-feet plus, nothing is going to catch you anyway. The SR-71 never suffered any combat losses despite numerous attempts by the Soviets and others to bring one down with SAM-2’s or MiGs.
One of the most amazing things about the Blackbird was that it was all designed without the aid of modern computing. It was built in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s and designed using slide rules and pencils to do the immensely complex design and engineering work required to make a mach 3 spy plane.
In the era of the Blackbird, and especially in Kelly Johnson’s Skunk Works, engineers were left alone to make the airplane with minimal supervision. Nowadays a project like the SR-71 would be mired in red tape and bureaucracy and essentially managed to death; the F-35 is a perfect example of how a plane that is engineered well can be thoroughly neutered by bureaucracy and management. Management, especially in aerospace, is the black death of our times. But I digress.
Sadly for me, the Blackbird was retired before I ever got to see one fly. I have no original Blackbird photos and many of the videos I can find are of VHS-quality. Nevertheless, here are a few for you to enjoy. If you have any better Blackbird photos or videos I would love to see them and share them here!