The aircraft we introduce today is known as the Lockheed YF-12 Blackbird which is the prototype aircraft for interceptor missions created by the Lockheed Martin back in the 1960s to serve the United States Air Force (USAF). Lockheed YF-12 Blackbird actually comes in two design variants; one is with single-seat design while the other one is of two-seat design. The single-seat version of this aircraft was built in secrecy and is known by the named Lockheed A-12 which serves the USAF in its reconnaissance missions. The Lockheed A-12 was the aircraft that led to the birth of the famed Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird which is a twin-seat design aircraft for reconnaissance.
When the Lockheed YF-12 Blackbird was made news to the public, it had already broken several of the speed as well as the altitude climb records. In the 60s, it was the only aircraft that could fly at a top speed of nearly 3200 km/h on an altitude of 80000 feet. It was only after SR-71 Blackbird made its debut was this speed and altitude record was broken. Even today, the Lockheed YF-12 Blackbird is considered to be the only interceptor to be ever built which was the largest, fastest and the heaviest manned aircraft.
The aircraft was a great reconnaissance as well as an interceptor aerial asset for the USAF but after 5 years of its short service, the aircraft was retired. Following its retirement from USAF’s service, the aircraft went on to be the research aircraft at NASA. The experiments conducted with help of the Lockheed YF-12 Blackbird allowed for the Lockheed to build the controlled supersonic aircraft which was known to be the SR-71 Blackbird.
For our readers today, we bring to you a few of the lesser-known and interesting facts about the Lockheed YF-12 Blackbird, the fighter-interceptor.
The designing and the production phases for the Lockheed YF-12 Blackbird started back in the 1950s and the whole project was carried out under secrecy. The primary target of building this aircraft was to give it speed as well as stealth; a must-have for an interceptor and reconnaissance aircraft. The aircraft achieved the high speed but that led to the problem of its surface getting immensely heated up due to friction and to avert these effects, titanium alloy was incorporated in its making. In fact, most of the aircraft’s parts are made from Titanium alloy due to the ability of this material to withstand the heat at nearly 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Actually, the first aircraft in this project to be built was a single-seat aircraft named Lockheed A-12 which then evolved to a two-seater design which in turn provided knowledge for the creation of Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.
The very first flight of the Lockheed YF-12 Blackbird took to the skies on 7th August 1963 and this and many other test flights were kept a total secret until the President of US Johnson announced the YF-12 to the nation back on 24th February 1964.
Lockheed only manufactured 3 ever models of the Lockheed YF-12 Blackbird which were given following tail numbers.
Even out of these three models, only one remains and that too is in the Air Force Museum.
Back in 1966, one of the Lockheed YF-12 Blackbird that had tail number 06934 suffered a partial crash landing. Not all of the aircraft was lost and the part salvaged from that aircraft helped the engineers to create the only ever built SR-71C. As for the Lockheed YF-12 Blackbird with tail number 06936, it suffered from the failed fuel line in mid-test flight that resulted in the fire to be burst out in the right engine. The aircraft crashed in a desert in blazing glory.
As for the only Lockheed YF-12 Blackbird that survives today is the one with tail number 06935 which sits comfortably at the Air Force Museum located in the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.
The thing that made Lockheed YF-12 Blackbird one of the best aircraft of its era was due to it breaking the record for altitude and speed. The aircraft was able to fly at a top speed of a little over Mach 3 at an altitude of nearly 80000 feet that allowed it to be forever be cemented in the history of aviation.
Those records were broken by the flight crew consistent of pilots Col. Robert L. Stephens and Lt. Col. Daniel Andre. The only other aircraft that actually surpassed that record was the SR-71 Blackbird back in 1976. It is the very same aircraft that was built on the design and even parts obtained from the Lockheed YF-12 Blackbird program after 10 years of its predecessor taking it to the skies.
You might not believe this fact for an aircraft that was built over half a century ago that the results obtained from its first test flight are still making a huge difference for aviation engineers. Most of the intricate level in-flight tests ever carried out were performed on the Lockheed YF-12 Blackbird and they prove to be the longer-lasting ones as compared to any other aircraft.
The engineers managed to separate the in-flight effects of the aerodynamic force in comparison to the thermodynamic force which the aircraft experiences at high-speed flight. This separation of data was never carried out before. While the speed and the altitude records belong to the SR-71 Blackbird or any other aircraft that might one day surpass it, the only aircraft that gave the statistical analysis for the supersonic aircraft to USAF and NSAS is always going to be the YF-12.
Powerplant and other specs
The Lockheed YF-12 Blackbird was fitted with 2 of the Pratt & Whitney J58 engines. Each of these engines was able to generate a thrust of nearly 32000 pounds allowing for the aircraft to gain a record speed of Mach 3.2 while traveling at an altitude of 80257 feet. The maximum combat range recorded for the Lockheed YF-12 Blackbird was about 2000 miles.