The SR-71 Blackbird Was So Fast It Could Out Run Missiles (But Sits in a Museum)

Blackbirds also flew recon missions off the Russian coast—though not over Russia itself—evading all of the Mach 3 MiG-25 fighters sent after them. Soviet defector Victor Belenko wrote in his biography MiG Pilot, “They taunted and toyed with the MiG-25s sent up to intercept them, scooting up to altitudes the Soviet planes could not reach, and circling leisurely above them or dashing off at speeds the Russians could not match.”

Yet the Blackbird had shortcomings. It was expensive to operate, costing more than $100,000 per hour flown according to one estimate. Furthermore, an SR-71 required an average of a week of maintenance between each mission because the high-speed flights often caused bits and pieces of the airplane to loosen or come off. The Air Force was also worried that new Soviet SA-5 surface-to-air missiles had the speed and range to hit

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