Photo via DoD/Wikimedia Commons

The SR-71 Blackbird — the long-range Mach 3 recon and strike jet dreamed up by Lockheed Martin’s legendary Skunk Works division, world’s fastest jet-propelled aircraft, and preferred delivery craft for unusually talented multinational paramilitary squads — may be among the most awe-inspiring aircraft in the history of manned flight, engineered to literally outrun enemy missiles with the slip of a switch. And while the iconic hypersonic jet was retired by the Air Force in 1990, its successor’s elegant design may scream across the horizon sooner than expected.

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