Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird airplane model. Developed for the USAF as reconnaissance aircraft more than 30 years ago, SR-71s are still the world's fastest and highest-flying production aircraft. The aircraft can fly more than 2200 mph (Mach 3+ or more than three times the speed of sound) and at altitudes of over 85,000 feet. For its reconnaissance mission, the aircraft was outfitted with an advanced synthetic aperture radar system [ASARS-I], an optical bar camera and a technical objective camera wet film system. All were once part of the aircraft's original equipment.
The SR-71 was designed by a team of Lockheed personnel led by Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, at that time vice president of the company's Advanced Development Projects, known as the "Skunk Works." The first version, a CIA reconnaissance aircraft that first flew in April 1962 was called the A-11. The similar A-12 had a lower radar cross section. An interceptor version was developed in 1963 under the designation YF-12A. A USAF reconnaissance variant, called the SR-71, was first flown in 1964. The A-12 and SR-71 designs included leading and trailing edges made of high-temperature fiberglass-asbestos laminates which among other features contributed to their reduced radar signature. Its existence was publicly announced by President Lyndon Johnson on Feb. 29, 1964, when he announced that an A-11 had flown at sustained speeds of over 2000 mph during tests at Edwards, California.