SR-71 Blackbird operations: The untold story

In the July 2011 issue of Aviation News SR-71 pilot, Squadron Commander and ultimately Wing Commander, Col Richard Graham (ret’d) described Blackbird operations from the cockpit and also the command and control of this unique aircraft.  In this fascinating feature he describes previously untold elements from his time on the SR-71.

Two large NATO exercises, called Cold Fire and Teamwork were scheduled in September 1976. Headquarters European Command was keen on having the SR-71A participate in its land, sea and air exercises, as it would demonstrate positive US resolve in support of NATO.  My Reconnaissance Systems Officer (RSO), Capt Don Emmons, and I flew to RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk in a KC-135Q tanker as part of the advance party, to set up operations and recover the SR-71A being ferried to Mildenhall. The crew of Captains Al Cirino (pilot) and Bruce Liebman (RSO) flew the ’plane from Beale AFB, California to Mildenhall, taking off on September 2 in SR-71A tail number 61-7962.  En route they encountered engine problems diverting into Goose Bay, Labrador.  Repairs were made though arrival into Mildenhall was delayed by four days.

Become a Premium Member to Read More

This is a premium article and requires an active Key.Aero subscription to view.

I’m an existing member, sign me in!

I don’t have a subscription…

Enjoy the following subscriber only benefits:

  • Unlimited access to all KeyAero content
  • Exclusive in-depth articles and analysis, videos, quizzes added daily
  • A fully searchable archive – boasting hundreds of thousands of pieces of quality aviation content
  • Access to read all our leading aviation magazines online - meaning you can enjoy the likes of FlyPast, Aeroplane Monthly, AirForces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, Aviation News, Airports of the World, PC Pilot and Airliner World - as soon as they leave the editor’s desk.
  • Access on any device- anywhere, anytime
  • Choose from our offers below