A Cape Town Castle Military Museum tagged image from photographer – Gord McKenna as published on Flickr.
Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird (and Dodge Pickup) 2011
Image by Gord McKenna
Castle Air Force Base, near Merced, California. What a great place to visit.
"When the closure of Castle Air Force Base was announced in 1994, a group of dedicated enthusiasts in the Atwater-Merced area formed a non-profit organization called the Castle Air Museum Foundation, Inc. Their purpose was to assume custody of the collection of aircraft. It was their dream to build a museum in which faithfully restored historic aircraft could be exhibited for public enjoyment.
Castle Air Museum represents history in a way the whole family can share with our awe-inspiring majestic warbirds. To stand under the wing of the Convair RB-36H Peacemaker or the Boeing B-52, you can imagine the sky around the bombers filled with enemy fighters."
No aircraft is probably more recognizable than the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. Much of the history and capabilities of the Blackbird remain shrouded in mystery, but what has emerged makes this one of the most fascinating aircraft ever flown.
The Blackbird evolved from an earlier aircraft, known as the A-12. The A-12 was flown by the CIA and was almost identical to the SR-71, except that it was a single seat version. The SR-71 was developed by Lockheed’s " Skunk Works" in the early 60’s by key designer and pilot, the legendary Clarence "Kelly" Johnson. The first aircraft was delivered to SAC in 1964.
The SR-71’s mission was reconnaissance and it carried no armament. It filled its role exceedingly well and, from 1964 until 1990, played a vital role in protecting our nation’s security. In any crisis, anywhere in the world and at any time, the crews and maintainers of the Blackbird supported missions directed by the highest levels of our nation’s government. To this end, SR-71’s were based at Beale Air Force Base, California and at two forward operating locations in Okinawa and the United Kingdom.
Made of Titanium, the SR-71 fuselage heats to 500 degrees during flight and elongates 6 inches. The SR-71 was capable of speeds of over three times the speed of sound and altitudes of over 85,000 feet, but these are just the published figures. The actual performance was greater in both categories. There were 32 SR-71’s built and in 26 years of service, no aircraft was ever lost to hostile fire, despite the fact that they were shot at over 1,000 times.
Due to U. S. Government budgetary cutbacks in military spending, the end to most Communist threats in Eastern Europe, and advancements in satellite reconnaissance, the SR-71 was retired in 1990. At this time, three aircraft were delivered to NASA for high altitude experiments. The most notable was one SR-71 that was delivered to the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. that recorded the flight from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. in 68 minutes.
The aircraft on display at Castle, flew the most operational missions of any SR-71 and was the first to fly over Vietnam. It also flew photo reconnaissance support of Operation El Dorado Canyon, the April 1986 raid on Libya.
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