SR-71 thread

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11 years 5 months

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I know this is not ultra modern today, but the only craft optimized to fly at M3.2 speed.

Did they ever reconsider using them in modern times ?


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12 years 4 months

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Did they ever reconsider using them in modern times ?

As the wiki link you provided indicated, there was some interest in keeping them going, and a partial re-activation for a few years, but budget pressures eventually won out, and they were retired. They were very expensive to keep going, with excessive maintainence hours and parts becoming very tough to source. You also needed to factor in dedicated tankers with the special fuel.

The capablity was missed by some, as they could provide near real time, flexible targeting with mutiple sensors. They were even more missed by enthusiasts (personally seeing one condcut a low burner pass is likely my personal air show highlight in my lifetime, I can remember the blue shock cones so clearly).

As for resurecting museum examples for "modern" use, no I do not think it has been seriously considered, and doing so (or making new-built aircraft) would be astronomically expensive.

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The capablity was missed by some, as they could provide near real time, flexible targeting with mutiple sensors.

I noticed at the tim eof events that such craft would hve certainly proved immensely helpful in searching for MH370. Such aircraft should be part of a large empowered and more aggressive ICAO.

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There were some very interesting posts relating to performance (top speed, mostly), but pretty far out on the fantasy end of the spectrum. The 3.2 mach number mentioned was, in fact, pretty much the top of the operational range, although short excursions a little higher could be made (and were). The airframe probably had a little more capability, but the real limiting factor was the engine. As you got above 3.2 the movement of the spike was near its aft limit, and if you went much further the ability of the spike to keep the shock wave under control and prevent "unstarts" became seriously compromised.

As an aside, I was at HQ SAC when we retired it the first time, and watched the process unfold. My take: It truely was simply a budget issue at first, as the system was very expensive when you realize the budget paid for not only the SR, but two full squadrons of KC-135Q aircraft at Beale. However, as time went by, the "savings" gained from retiring the SR (that we couldn't afford) just coincidentally equalled the cost of a SAC plan to retain 50 B-52Gs as a "conventional only" bomber force (the initial DoD plan was to retire all the "G" models and leave only the newer B-52H aircraft). Suddenly we could "afford" the Gs. As the process continued, it was pretty obvious to us where SAC's loyalties resided. However, the dollars suddenly disappeared from SAC's budget allocation the day after the SR retirement plan was approved at HQ AF. It turned out SAC really didn't control those dollars after all, which is what we tried to tell the SAC seniors who were pushing so hard for the "conventional G" program, and, oh by the way, the whole idea of the retirement (in DoD's mind) was to decrease the overall budget, not spend the same dollars on B-52s. Typical staff shenanigans...