The SR-71 Blackbird

The CIA A-12 Blackbird Program

 

The A-12 started out as an USAF interceptor to replace the cancelled F-108A Rapier. In October 1962, CIA authorized the Skunk Works to study the feasibility of modifying the A-12 to carry and deploy a reconnaissance drone for unmanned overflight of denied areas. The project was codenamed TAGBOARD.

J58 The Powerplant for the Blackbirds

J58 The Powerplant for the Blackbirds
The Pratt & Whitney J58 (company designation JT11D-20) was a jet engine that powered the Lockheed A-12, and subsequently the YF-12 and the SR-71 aircraft. The J58 was a single-spool turbojet with an afterburner. It had a unique bleed from the compressor to the afterburner which gave increased thrust at high speeds.
 
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Early J-58 Engine Development

Early J-58 Engine Development

By the end of 1962, only two A-12s were engaged in flight tests. Full test speeds could not be reached since the J-58 engines were not fully available and were experiencing problems. 

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Starting the SR-71 Blackbird's J58 Engines - AG330 Start Cart

Starting the SR-71 Blackbird's J58 Engines - AG330 Start Cart

The AG-330 Start Cart orginally were Buick wildcat 401 cubic inch V-8 engines developing 400 horsepower. There were two Buick engines mounted tandem side by side with automatic transmissions. They were coupled together with a steel woven drive belt to drive a vertical shaft that was inserted into the starter mechanism on the bottom of the SR-71's engine.

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J58 Engine by Arnie Gunderson

J58 Engine by Arnie Gunderson

The Air Zoo is a world-class, Smithsonian-affiliated aerospace and science museum, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with over 100 air and space artifacts, inspiring interactive exhibits, full-motion flight simulators, indoor amusement park rides, a theater and over 100 education programs!

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