The RAF Museum is home to many different types of aircraft and not just those operated by the RAF.There is information on a multitude of different planes from around the world and perhaps one of the most memorable Cold War aircraft is the Lockheed SR 71 Blackbird. This distinctive black arrow could almost reach space meaning the pilots had to be suited up like astronauts. Despite its threatening look, it was deployed as a reconnaissance aircraft that would take pictures of Soviet operations from far above. The SR 71 has a colorful development history from those early variations which include the YF 12 – an earlier version which eventually lead to the iconic Blackbird. There was a fighter version in early development too but it never came to fruition.

Developed as a stealth jet, the Blackbird was the spawn of military the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. Being invisible to enemy radar, it could enter enemy airspace without being detected and take vital pictures which would directly influence strategies back home. If an enemy missile was fired, its Mach 3 capability gave it the speed to simply outpace the missile. Its range and technical ability was remarkable given that it was developed through the 50s and it was far, far in advance of anything else that was around at the time. No Blackbirds were ever shot down by enemy fire, but as one might expect, it had some issues which lead to accidents. Memorabilia of the SR 71 can be picked up from the RAF gift shop.