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Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird

...from Key Publishing, via Pen & Sword

Title: Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird
Author: Bob Archer
Publisher: Key Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-80282-263-2

Number 17 in their Historic Military Aircraft Series from Key Publishing, now distributed by Pen & Sword. A 95-page small format soft-cover book packed with photos of this iconic aircraft.
The heart of the book is the collection of over 170 good quality photos which illustrate the 3 particular variants, the A-12, the YF-12 and the SR-71. Now long retired more information has gradually been released regarding this very secret machine. The SR-71 carried out missions very high and at speeds over Mach 3 and these are set out, as when that high they could photograph far into Russia or China without having to actually overfly their territory. None were ever shot down, though a number were lost in accidents. There is a lot of interesting detail within the 5 chapters and a fair chunk devoted to the particular deployment of various SR-71s to Detachment 4 based at Mildenhall in the UK, where the author was able to get many of his photographs. There are plenty of details on markings and special artwork but unlike so many other aircraft types, this one doesn't have a host of different colour schemes, this one sticks to the standard style of a 'little black dress'. An amazing aircraft renowned for leaking fuel when on the ground as the airframe stretched by about 12 inches when in flight. As a result it used a special fuel, and special KC-135 tankers flew with them, identified with the letter Q to mark their load as the special fuel.
I count myself as lucky, as I used to be a regular visitor to the Mildenhall Air Fete in the 1980s, when the Blackbirds of Det 4 were regulars both on static display and in the flying display as mentioned in the book. I was equally lucky to have been able to sit in my parents garden, not far from the airbase, and see them fly low, directly overhead as they turned into their approach for landing. It is still sad to realise that so many aviation fans, younger than myself, don't have the opportunity to see these amazing aircraft flying today. There is one on show at the IWM Duxford at least. Super little book if you remember seeing them in the air and equally if you didn't, then at least a great collection of photos to see this incredible machine. Another fine addition to this good value series of books.
Thanks to Pen & Sword for the review copy.


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