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This Blackbird got back — the rare SR-71A known as “Big Tail”

27 May 2011

This Blackbird got back — the rare SR-71A known as “Big Tail”

30º 27′ 57″ N / 86º 33′ 43″ W

The Air Force Armament Museum is located on the outside of Eglin AFB near Valparaiso and Niceville, both in Florida. Displayed on the grounds are several historic aircraft with the most popular likely to be the Lockheed SR-71A “Blackbird” (no official name for SR-71s) standing front and center. All the SR-71 aircraft (also informally known as “Sleds” and “Habus”) were strategic assets and likely all flew historic missions, though most of these flights will remain classified for years to come. This particular Blackbird has a unique trial modification which added 9 feet (2.7m) beyond the tail to carry a new optical bar camera as well as more electronic countermeasures. The testing indicated that aerodynamics were not unduly affected — but the additional equipment did not substantially add to mission capability either. Since the flying of this SR-71 was not harmed the extension remained, this unique aircraft was given the nickname of “Big Tail” and served several more years inhabiting a flight envelope solely with its Blackbird brethren.

Profile of Lockheed's SR-71A known as "Big Tail" at the USAF Armament Museum, note the 9 foot extension at the tail — photo by Joe May

Aft view of "Big Tail" — photo by Joe May

Note the SR-71's splitter plate between the left and right forward canopy panes — photo by Joe May

Right side engine nacelle for one of the two incredibly powerful Pratt & Whitney J-58 engines — photo by Joe May

Detail of the SR-71's nose gear — photo by Joe May

Close up view of the big tail of "Big Tail" — photo by Joe May

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