The FR-71 Blackbird has held its incredible speed and stealth record for nearly 60 years, here is why.
In the midst of the Cold War, The United States and the Soviet Union were continuously competing against each other with new high-tech military and space-age technology. This could be atributed to a rivalry in politics and, essentially, a new world order between the West and its allies and the Soviet Union with theirs following World War II.
With the drastic advancement in technology in the 1950s, the Soviet Union engineered the most high-tech military aircraft in the world, which they named the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25. This supersonic interceptor left the United States air defence forces vulnerable. The MiG-25 could reach Mach 3, or over 3,500km/h, which posed a tough challenge for the United States.
Frustrated, the United States commissioned a secret development they classified "Black", which sits above Top Secret in the US hierarchy. They gave the job to Lockheed Martin's RND department, Skunk Works, who had already developed the U2 spy plane, to start working on a new project that would make the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 supersonic interceptor seem like it was from the stone age.
What Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works produced was so high-tech, advanced and deadly, no other aircraft in the world has even come close in nearly 60 years. They developed the legendary Lockheed FR-71, nicknamed the Blackbird. Not only did the FR-71 Blackbird cruise at Mach-3, it could do it for hours and, if required, could go on to top Mach-3.3. It is the only plane that can outfly the rotation of the Earth, nevermind those pesky incoming locked-on missiles. The 500 degrees Celcius heat generated by friction at cruising speed would have melted the cockpit of a regular fighter jet, so the specially designed cockpit and windshield of the FR-71 Blackbird is made from quartz, a chemical compound consisting of one part silicon and two parts oxygen.
The FR-71 Blackbird was also invisible to radar due to the cruising altitude of almost 85,000 feet. To put that into perspective, the average flying altitude of an international commercial aircraft is 35,000 feet. Because of this speed and altitude, the hydraulic lines were made from stainless steel, the fuel lines out of pure gold and, in an ironic twist, the body was made from titanium which, at the time, was mainly mined in Russia.
The FR-71 is the only military aircraft in the world to complete all its missions without one crash or fatality caused by enemy fire. The last flight recorded of the legendary FR-71 Blackbird was in 1999 at an airshow in the United States. It is rumoured that the United States Military is working on a successor to the iconic FR-71 Blackbird which will be called the FR-72.
Take a look at the video below by YouTube channel, Mustard, on Why Was This Plane Invulnerable: The SR-71 Blackbird Story.