The aircraft had been photographing Libyan targets in the aftermath of Operation El Derado Canyon in 1986
The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird was an iconic piece of aeronautical engineering, capable of reaching phenomenal speeds while cruising at altitudes on the edge of space. Outfitted with a variety of systems suited for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data collection, the long-range strategic reconnaissance type was frequently deployed on classified missions over hostile territories during its service with the United States Air Force, which lasted for more than 20 years.
During these flights, crews would employ a range of infrared/optical imagery systems, electronic intelligence (ELINT) gathering equipment and a side-looking airborne radar (SLAR). Despite its impressive performance and endurance, however, the Blackbird was still vulnerable to ground missiles, and this was most notably demonstrated during a sortie over Libya in 1986.