Anecdotes about SR-71 successors

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[TD="class: light-box black post"] I think it is safe to assume that the SR-71 Blackbird was one of the best(one of the most beautiful plane for sure) planes that were flying around the globe. Its first flight was in 1964 it gives us 55 years since the date of the first flight to present day. As we know the plane was retired in 1998 by the USAF and in 1999 by NASA. Let's think about it for a while... the Air Force just doesn't stop learning or wanting. They are pushing envelope to limits all the time. Some say that the sattelites took a reconaissance role but the fact is that every satellite is a predictible thing. You can simply guess when it will pass and you can hide your things or cover something before being seen. Would it work in modern world? A big NO!

In the late 80's/early 90's there was a talk that there is something that filled a gap left by a Blackbird after its retirement. Media called it "Aurora". The truth

however is a little different. There was no and never will be anything called "Aurora". It was just a line budget for R/D and progression of the B-2 Stealth Bomber. But it doesn't mean that there wasn't any replacement for the retired Blackbird back in the 90's. There are many stories and bits floating around the web(even here on this forum). I will quote some of them:
"I was told by someone who was retired USAF in the early 1990s there were were about a half dozen based both in CONUS and overseas, and that the aircraft design had two each of three different types of engines.

Anecdotal evidence indicates perhaps one may have been operational in-theater during GW1 (not based there, just doing its thing during the air campaign and ground war).


What do you all think? Do you have any interesting stories to tell

like those aforementioned above? Any rumors? Let's free to talk!
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Well, the SR-71 did the same thing as the U-2 but (much) faster. After the Powers and Anderson incidents, the U-2 clearly wasn't quite up to scratch to conduct surveillance over (militarily qualified) enemy territory, but the SR-71 still could pull it off. The U-2 was relegated to performing surveillance from safe airspace.

At the time, surveillance satellites were gaining ground but they were still cumbersome things with all the inherent limitations of satellites (easily tracked and predictable orbital trajectories, no way of quickly directing them to a new hotspot on short notice) and with the added issue of not being able to in any way beam down high-resolution photography - the film cans had to be physically dropped and retrieved somehow.

In the 1970's and 1980's satellites became markedly better, as the CCD was introduced among other things, and as the technologically adept enemies' surface-to-air weaponry kept getting better the SR-71 was increasingly being relegated to surveillance over places where it wasn't particularly threatened, just like the U-2 had beforehand.

Later on you got to the stage where the SR-71 and the U-2 basically performed the same job, but the latter was far cheaper to operate. So, that's why the U-2 remained in service for longer, despite not being quite as hot performance-wise.

Nowadays, we're really in the drone age, but the legacy platforms have gotten much more powerful as well. Surveillance satellites are leaps and bounds better and more numerous than before, sensors on regular piloted aircraft are incredibly advanced and can accomplish loads by just skirting national airspaces, legally flying in international ditto unbothered. Unmanned surveillance drones are on standby at forward deployments all over the world, with dozens in the air at any given moment. If they happen to get shot down, which has happened (eg the RQ-170 in Iran, which pretty much led to its very unveiling too) it isn't quite as troublesome as when a piloted spy plane goes down.

That said, there could still be a time and place for a kind of high supersonic or even hypersonic surveillance drone, for obvious reasons, and perhaps there is some black project in operation. That approach does create a host of issues though, it's not easy to be discrete when taking that route.