TIL: Titanium used for Mach3+ Cold War spy plane came from Russia
In a fascinating piece about the SR-71 Blackbird, the BBC calls it The Cold War’s ultimate spy plane.
The Blackbird is the world’s fastest plane capable of speeds reaching 2,200mph (3,540kph) while its futuristic shape and black paint full of radar-absorbing iron made it virtually undetectable.
The SR-71, built by Lockheed, served with the US Air Force from 1964 to 1998. A total of 32 of the reconnaissance aircraft were built while 12 were lost in non-combat accidents. According to military data the plane cost $85,000 per hour to operate.
One of the interesting tidbits from the interview with Colonel Rich Graham who spent 15 years as a Blackbird pilot and wing commander was that the Soviet Union actually helped build the Blackbird:
“The airplane is 92% titanium inside and out.
“Back when they were building the airplane the United States didn’t have the ore supplies – an ore called rutile ore. It’s a very sandy soil and it’s only found in very few parts of the world.
“The major supplier of the ore was the USSR. Working through Third World countries and bogus operations, they were able to get the rutile ore shipped to the United States to build the SR-71.”