The Soviet Union unwittingly “helped” the United States to create a supersonic reconnaissance aircraft SR-71 Blackbird, writes the National Interest.
According to the author of the article, Trevor Filset, the Blackbird has become a kind of symbol of the power of the US Air Force, as well as the ingenuity of aircraft manufacturers.
However, the United States should not take credit only to itself, because the USSR played a key role in the creation of the machine. The fact is that the basis for the SR-71 was the Lockheed A-12 reconnaissance aircraft, which was produced mainly from aluminum. Its aerodynamic design allowed it to fly at a speed of over two thousand miles per hour.
“Such an incredible speed meant that the plane did not need to evade anti-aircraft missiles or counteract them in any way, as it could simply overtake them,” the journalist said.
Nevertheless, aluminum as a material could not cope with the high temperature that is inevitable at such speeds, so the developers began to experiment with titanium, which combines lightness and strength. But in the United States, the reserves of this metal were not enough, and the USSR actively exported it. As a result, the Central Intelligence Agency conducted an operation to secretly buy up titanium, using shell corporations and third-world countries as intermediaries.
“Of course, if the Soviet Union knew that the exported titanium was used to build American aircraft, it would definitely not sell it. And even if the United States did not name the import target, Moscow would probably be wary of the fact that Washington suddenly became interested in such a large amount of metal,” Filset concluded.
The Lockheed SR-71 supersonic aircraft made its first flight in late December 1964 and was decommissioned in 1998. A total of 32 such machines were produced.