The SR-71, Part V
By Scott Schwartz
Selling the Blackbird to the Air Force would be a tough job, even for Clarence Kelly. The mere act of sitting in the Blackbird’s cockpit required uncommon self-confidence on the part of a pilot. Let’s face it; strapping into an aircraft which could fly faster than a .30 caliber bullet was a profound experience. Consequently, few Air Force officers relished the idea of commanding squadrons of these aircraft. Not to mention the secrecy and the costs involved with the Blackbird.
But, events taking place in the Soviet Union would soon cause a change in Air Force ideology.
In 1961, the CIA was able to intercept the results of a Soviet missile test, which had taken place in Siberia. Skunk Works analysts, after reviewing the data, came to a stunning conclusion: this was no missile test. Rather, the Soviets had been testing a bomber that could cruise at Mach 2, while flying at 60-thousand feet. There were no aircraft in the U.S. inventory that could intercept such a bomber, nor did we have any missiles that could shoot this aircraft down.