The Blackbird Archive

An In-depth Look at the A-12, YF-12, and SR-71

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Welcome to the Blackbird Archive: One of the best resources on the Internet for information, photos, and diagrams pertaining to the A-12, YF-12, SR-71, and D-21. This archive contains history and specifications on all Blackbird variants and most other associated aspects. Be sure to check back in the future because information is being added regularly. If you have any information or personal stories of your involvement with any of the related programs, please send these items in or add them to the guest book; comments are always welcome!


The Blackbird is one of the most magnificent military jets ever developed. People have been fascinated with the aircraft for decades, and not only because of the aircraft's capabilities. The aircraft has played an important military role in international conflicts for nearly thirty years.

Blackbird-Related Manuals:

SR-71 Flight Manual

SR-71 Flight Manual

For the first time ever, the SR-71 Flight Manual has been made available online. The manual was declassified several years ago and has now been made free to the public. This operating handbook is 1,052 pages and includes all systems except for the Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar System.



Functional Check Flight Procedures Manual for SR-71A and SR-71B aircraft. Seventeen pages of Senior Crown material; last revised 1 March 1986.


YF-12A-1: The YF-12A Utility Flight Manual

Like the SR-71 Flight Manual, the YF-12A Flight Manual is now available free to the public. This operating handbook is 420 pages and was last revised on 15 February 1971.

Blackbird Variant Background Information and History:

A-12 Blackbird (Lockheed Photo)

A-12 Blackbird

The A-12 is the first of all Blackbird Variants. First flown in 1962, it had a very short career, and was retired in 1968. The A-12s sat in storage for over twenty years in Palmdale before being transported to museums around the country.

YF-12 Blackbird (NASA Photo)

YF-12A Blackbird

The YF-12A is a prototype for a proposed Mach 3+ interceptor/bomber. Only three were originally built and only one remains today. The YF-12A program was cancelled in the mid-1960s for budgetary reasons. However, the aircraft went on to serve NASA before its eventual retirement in 1979.

SR-71 Blackbird (Paul Kucher Collection)

SR-71 Blackbird

Following the development of the A-12 came the SR-71, an improved platform for reconnaissance. The capabilities of the SR-71 versus the A-12 have been debated many times. Each of these aircraft served different purposes and regardless which is better, the SR-71 is still a magnificent aircraft.

M-21 Blackbird (Lockheed Photo)

M-21 Blackbird

Although the M-21 looks like an A-12, it was not modified from one. After A-12 #60-6939 was built, two M-21s were built. These aircraft had two cockpits: one for a Pilot and one for a Launch Control Officer. Due to the fatal accident with aircraft #60-6941, the M-21/D-21 program was cancelled.

D-21 Drone (Lockheed Photo)

D-21 Drone

Due to the agreement between the Soviet Union and the United States restricting the use of manned vehicles over the Soviet landmass, this unmanned aircraft was developed. The drone was carried and launched by two A-12-like modified aircraft and a number of B-52Hs.

Blackbird Images and Video:

Blackbird Diagrams Gallery

This archive consists of NASA and USAF diagrams of the different variants of the Blackbird. These diagrams include side-sectionals, component breakdowns with labels, and procedures. Be sure to check the SR-71 Flight Manual for more diagrams as well.

Blackbird Events Gallery

Blackbird events are a way for former crews and personnel to discuss and answer questions about the airplane they love, and to interact with fans and buffs nationwide. Check here for photos from attended events.

Blackbird Image Gallery

This image archive is perhaps the largest collection of Blackbird images anywhere today. There are currently over 850 images in this gallery, including images of the Blackbird airframes and other associated items that kept the SR-71 operational.

Blackbird Movie Gallery

This is an archive of NASA movie clips of the Blackbird in flight. These clips are in MPEG and QuickTime format. Be sure to update your computer's media player before viewing this section.

Blackbird Patches

Patch collecting is a hobby of many Blackbird fans. This archive contains images of some of the more memorable patches associated with the different programs. All patches in this section are available for purchase in aviation gift stores around the country.

Blackbird Wallpaper

Let the Blackbird adorn your computer screen with desktop wallpapers made from some of the best photos in the Paul Kucher Collection. The wallpapers come in two available sizes.

Blackbird Equipment Information:

J58 (JT11D-20A) Engine

The J58 powered nearly all of the Blackbirds. Only one aircraft (A-12 #60-6927) used the J75 engine throughout its entire career. The J58 is the first engine designed to operate for lengthy periods in afterburner, and it is the first engine to be flight-qualified at Mach 3 for the Air Force.

Blackbird Support Information:

Starter Cart

Without the starter carts, the Blackbird would not be startable. These units were placed under the nacelles of each engine during startup and were used to spool the engines to 3200 RPM before a shot of TEB was used to ignite the engine. There are two types of carts: one equipped with twin-Buick engines and one with twin-Chevys.

SR-71 Simulator

The SR-71 Simulator is a unique piece of hardware used to train every crew member. Complete with both a Pilot and an RSO cockpit, the SR-71 simulator's instrument panels are identical to those in the real aircraft. The simulator is now at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards AFB, CA. This section includes background information about the simulator and photos.

Other Resources:


A complete list of abbreviations used in this site pertaining to the Blackbird programs. You may find it useful when reading other related resources as well.

Blackbird Flight Hours

This flight hours list is the most accurate compiled to date, even more so than any book that you may read. However, some data has not yet surfaced for the flight hours of a few airframes that have been unaccounted for.

Blackbird Flight Logs

The last four active SR-71s (#956, #967, #971, and #980) have been grounded permanently and will soon be transported to museums. Peter Merlin of NASA Dryden Flight Research Center has compiled a complete list of flights for these aircraft with NASA. This information includes a description of the flight as well as speeds and altitudes reached.

Blackbird Links

A list of several excellent Blackbird-related sites on the Internet. Also, links to articles on the Blackbird and the museums where they are today.

Blackbird Locations

The dispositions of all remaining Blackbirds have been organized by state/region with a clickable map. Use this page to find the Blackbirds nearest to your area.

Blackbird Losses

This briefly discusses the demise of each of the twenty Blackbird losses.

Blackbird News

Although there is nothing currently going on in terms of flight research at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, you may read the last two press releases here.

Blackbird Records

The YF-12A and SR-71 set several speed and altitude records in the 1960s and 70s. In addition, SR-71A #61-7972 set several speed records over recognized courses during its final flight and retirement to the National Air and Space Museum in March 1990. These records are still unbroken after 35 years and it seems that the SR-71 will remain the fastest air-breathing aircraft for some time.

Miscellaneous Blackbird Information

Merely a list of random facts about the Blackbird, here are some interesting tidbits about the aircraft and its career.

SR-71 Online Message Boards (Message Boards Currently Down)

The SR-71 Online Discussion Group was founded on 24 September 2000, but I have recently switched the group over to a centralized message board system and membership is down due to the system transfer; please help rebuild the community! If you wish to discuss the Blackbird or any other modern military aircraft, this is the place for you. Membership is free and all are welcome.

Blackbird Trivia

After you have read everything in the above sections, you should have gained a little more insight into one of the most magnificent aircrafts ever built. Test your knowledge and see how much you know about the Blackbird.

Do you have any suggestions on how to make the Blackbird Archive better?
Please send me your comments.