SR-71 Blackbird In Action
David Doyle’s latest book continues to expand on Squadron Signal’s long-standing In Action series that initiated back in 1971. This is a completely updated and expanded edition over Squadron’s earlier Aircraft In Action number 55, a 50-pager on the Blackbird by Lou Drendel that was published in 1982. This 2017 release is essentially a new book, although it retains the identical Don Greer cover as In Action 55 monograph.
After many years of being published in enthusiast publications focused on military vehicle restorations, David Doyle ‘graduated’ to full-fledged books in 2003. His first book was a hefty 512-page history of US military vehicles. He has now had more than 100 books published in military vehicles, aviation, and naval topics. David and his wife Denise have amassed a collection of ten Vietnam era military vehicles that still displays at shows. In June 2015, was honored with the Military Vehicle Preservation Association’s Bart Vanderveen Award, given in recognition of "...the individual who has contributed the most to the historic preservation of military vehicles worldwide." Be sure to check out David’s website at (David Doyle Books ) where you can see and buy at a discounted price off of MSRP all his books that are still available.
This book follows the normal format of the current 80-page In Action series, detailing the development and service history of the Lockheed Blackbird. This is expanded from Squadron’s previous standard 60-page version of their In Action format and it runs 80 pages packed with large, clear photographs. The front cover features a color Don Greer painting of an SR-71 Blackbird flying high. The rear cover features NASA’s SR-71A (844) taking off with a LASRE system package on March 4, 1998. I counted 218 well-captioned photographs; 176 in color and 42 in black and white. There were seven black and white drawings depicting the variants by Vincenzo Auletta.
Lockheed’s ‘Skunk Works’ had already started on an intelligence gathering aircraft when Powers’ U-2 was downed by a Soviet surface-to-air missile in 1960. Kelly Johnson once again led a design team that delivered the ‘impossible’ technology where everything had to be invented to build this new speedster. The first Blackbird made its maiden flight on April 30, 1962. This single seat A-12 later evolved into the larger SR-71 to accommodate a Reconnaissance Systems Officer and additional fuel. The SR-71 first flew on December 22, 1964. Reducing the aircraft’s radar image meant that the 100’ aircraft would eventually give the Soviet radar an image somewhat larger than a bird, but smaller than a man, a radar cross section reduction of ~ 90 percent. The Blackbird set records on flight after flight and remains the fastest plane that has ever flown.
David Doyle starts off with the loss of Francis Gary Powers U-2 in 1960 and the initiation of the Lockheed ‘Archangel’ program. Utilizing mostly clear color photographs, many that have never been published before, David Doyle addresses each variant in its own chapter from the M/D-21 to the SR-71B. The Table of Contents is as follows:
- Blackbird Serial Numbers (Table)
- Development (Line Drawings)
- Specification (Table) [Page 5]
- M/D-21 [Page 8]
- SR-71 [Page 35, 50]
- Blackbird Records (Table)
- SR-71B [Page 72]
- NASA Service
The development of each version is addressed with text, vintage photographs, and drawings. A specification table helps to compare the A-12, YF-12A, and the SR-71 models along with another table listing each airframe by model, Lockheed number, and USAF serial number. I found some very interesting photographs of the Blackbird. Page 14 features two gorgeous color photographs of a metal YF-12A wind-tunnel test model. Page 31 features pictures of “Big Tail”, the SR-71 (sn 61-7959) that had an extended rear fuselage to house a combination of sensors, including the Optical Bar Camera. Page 38 has a nice color photograph of one of the two SR-71As that set speed and altitude records in July 1976. This picture shows off the large white cross painted on its belly to aid in tracking. The final chapter on NASA Service covers the Linear Aerospike SR-71 Experiment (LASRE) project well with 10 color photographs.
This is a gorgeous soft-bound book and is well worth the money. David Doyle provides lots of detailed photographs with detailed captions. I’ve always enjoyed Squadron’s In Action format as their line drawings focus on the differences from variant to variant, making it easy to spot the different versions in the period black and white or color photographs. You can find a video highlight of the books contents at Youtube Video.
My thanks to David Doyle Books at (David Doyle ) and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great book.