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Video - SR-71 Blackbird: the fastest plane in the world

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The history of the SR-71 Blackbird began in the early 60’s. Developed by the American manufacturer Lockheed, and based on the A-12 seen here, this spy plane took off for the first time on 22 December 1964.

Used by the USAF for surveillance and spying missions, the SR-71 was equipped with radars, a thermal video camera, and a high-resolution camera, located in the nose of the aircraft. Its price was as astronomical as its performance - two billion dollars apiece - and had the distinction of flying very high, and extremely fast at over Mach3. The aircraft still holds two world records for altitude and speed. In the summer of 1976, it reached just over 85,000 feet (almost 26,000m) and got close to 2,200 mph (3,500 km/h).

Colonel Buzz Carpenter, former pilot of the SR-71 Blackbird: "The airplane’s sensitivity was on a curve like this. So the faster you went, the airplane became much more sensitive and had to be handled much more delicately."

Thanks to its extraordinary performance, the Blackbird was able to escape the thousand Soviet missiles, of which it was the target during the Cold War. It was simply faster than them, thanks to its unusual design and two Pratt & Whitney jet engines powered by a special fuel. Kevin, project engineer – Lockheed Martin: "Since it flew so high and so fast, the tanks got very hot, so they got with one of the oil companies, and what they discovered was conventional jet fuel was going to boil off, and came up with special fuel additives called JP-7."

In total, of the 32 units built, twelve were destroyed in accidents. The SR-71 was retired in 1990 (although three resumed service between 1995 and 1998). Today, there is a Blackbird on exhibition at Washington’s National Air and Space Museum in the United States.

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