Comparing two powerful planes: was the A-12 or the SR-71 faster?

Only one can outclass the other in raw power.
Loukia Papadopoulos
A-12 flying.Wikimedia Commons

Did you know that the SR-71 Blackbird still remains the fastest operational military aircraft in history to this day? There was, however, one aircraft that was actually faster, and that was its predecessor, the A-12 Blackbird, according to Lockheed Martin, the maker of both planes. Let's examine both these marvels of engineering, shall we?

The first titanium plane

The A-12 Blackbird had the notable quality of being the first airplane made largely of titanium. It was developed by a division called Skunk Works, a special classified projects group at the Lockheed Aircraft Company.

In order to be completed, the group had to make substantial advances in aircraft technology, such as new methods that would allow fuels and oil to withstand the extreme heat in the plane’s engine as well as novel techniques to make the aircraft less detectable to radar.

All this proved successful, and the original Blackbird made its first flight on April 30, 1962. It was such a powerful and agile plane that in the late 1960s, A-12s flew 29 spy missions over North Vietnam and North Korea as part of a mission called Operation Black Shield. The planes traveled nearly 500 miles over North Vietnam in just 12 minutes, moving at  Mach 3 (three times the speed of sound) at altitudes between 85,000 and 90,000 feet. 

More space, more fuel

But that wasn't enough for the U.S. military. They needed more space for both passengers and fuel. The single-seat A-12 was soon transformed into the bigger SR-71, which boasted a second seat for a Reconnaissance Systems Officer and carried more fuel than the A-12.

This made the plane a bit slower but allowed it to carry more officers and travel for longer distances and it was soon adopted by the military. The SR-71 first flew on December 22, 1964, and the rest was history. 

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