NASA Just Dropped A Ton Of Rare Footage Of Blackbirds Doing What They Do Best

Gear
Photo via DoD/NASA

The long-range SR-71 Blackbird recon jet, dreamed up by Lockheed Martin’s famed Skunk Works division, has a reputation for a reason.


In the half-century since it first took flight at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, the Blackbird has unseated its record-setting Lockheed YF-12 predecessor as the world’s fastest jet-propelled aircraft, its twin afterburners capable of unleashing 34,000 pounds of thrust and accelerating the interceptor up to 35 miles per minute — 3,100 feet per second, per War Zone’s Tyler Rogoway. No wonder the SR-71 became the preferred delivery craft for specially trained and colorfully attired multinational paramilitary squads: Of all the aircraft ever conceived by the U.S. Air Force, the Blackbird is most synonymous with speed.

Luckily, you can now spend all day watching the SR-71 and the YF-12 scream across anonymous skies, if you so desire. Over the weekend, NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center decided to crack open its vault and publish archival footage from decades of flight tests at Dryden/Edwards Air Force Base on its YouTube channel.

While the cache of hundreds of videos includes some random gems (like the landing of an ill-fated horned XB-70A Valkyrie), our favorite SR-71 fanboy, Rogoway, surfaced a handful of fantastic clips of two Blackbirds stretching their wings over southern California. Let’s take a gander, shall we?

Taxi and Takeoff

On the 51st birthday of the SR-71, Rogoway noted at Foxtrot Alpha that the “official” Blackbird ceiling was around 85,000 feet — nowhere near the Kármán line that separates Earth and outer space at 330,000, but close and stuff!

Mid-Air Refueling:

*Cues Barry White soundtrack*

Pilot Training and Aerodynamic Heating Experiments:

The test in the first video is no science experiment. Per Rogoway, the SR-71’s titanium skin could reach temperatures as high as 900 degrees Fahrenheit at maximum velocity — hot enough that the aircraft would grow by six inches bow to stern, the most impressive six-inch growth under steamy circumstances in the history of mankind.

Landing

Taking off is easy; landing is far more difficult. Perhaps that’s why 40% of the Blackbird fleet didn’t survive operational tests, per Rogoway. Shame.

Yes, sure, this archival footage won’t keep you occupied all day, but it’s sweet enough to hold us over until Lockheed reveals new details of that proposed ultra-secret SR-72 successor. Until then, there’s always X2:

Casperassets.rbl.ms

Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.

Take $75 off a Casper Mattress and $150 off a Wave Mattress with code TASKANDPURPOSE

And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.

Read More Show Less

Airman 1st Class Isaiah Edwards has been sentenced to 35 years in prison after a military jury found him guilty of murder in connection with the death of a fellow airman in Guam, Air Force officials announced on Tuesday.

Read More Show Less

It took four years for the Army to finally start fielding the much-hyped Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, and it took soldiers less than four days to destroy one.

Read More Show Less
Capt. Jonathan Turnbull. (U.S. Army)

A soldier remains in serious condition after being injured in the deadly ISIS bombing that killed two other U.S. service members, a DoD civilian, and a defense contractor in Syria last week, Stars and Stripes reports.

Read More Show Less

A Russian man got drunk as all hell and tried to hijack an airplane on Tuesday, according to Russian news agencies.

So, pretty much your typical day in Siberia. No seriously: As Reuters notes, "drunken incidents involving passengers on commercial flights in Russia are fairly common, though it is unusual for them to result in flights being diverted."

Read More Show Less