Book Review
SR-71 Blackbird
SR-71 Blackbird
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Blackbird modelers and enthusiasts rejoice! SR-71 Blackbird by Paul F. Crickmore is a pocket size book from Osprey Publishing LTD, a compilation of two previous books, Lockheed A-12. The CIA's Blackbird and other variants (Air Vanguard 12) and Lockeed SR-71 Blackbird (Air Vanguard 20). This smaller hardback format of their General Aviation series combines both titles in 160 pages. Also available in PDF and ePUB formats, this hardback has the IBSN 9781472813152 and Osprey's code of GNA.
    Lockheed's SR-71 Blackbird is one of the most iconic and famous jets ever built. Assembled in secret at Lockheed's Skunkworks, the Blackbird's vital statistics remain phenomenal decades later. It holds the airspeed record for a manned jet aircraft, operated at an altitude other aircraft could barely touch and was a marvel of technical engineering. Drawing on declassified material, leading SR-71 expert Paul Crickmore reveals the history of the most fascinating of aircraft, accompanied by a range of fantastic illustrations, photographs and facts about the world's most secret spy plane. - Osprey

SR-71 Blackbird contains all the text and most of the profiles and illustrations by artist Adam Tooby in the previous 64-page Air Vanguard Blackbird titles. The smaller format is thus 160 pages long with these chapters:
    List of Abbreviations
    A-12 Design and Manufacture
    A-12 Oxcart Operations
    Tagboard and Senior Bowl, the M-21 and D-21
    Kedlock, the YF-12A
    Senior Crown, the SR-71
    Flying the SR-71
    NASA Operations
    Surviving Aircraft Histories

The two Air Vanguard reviews can be accessed here:
    Lockeed SR-71 Blackbird

    Lockheed A-12. THe CIA's Blackbird and other variants

Both of those books are in and of themselves excellent sources about the Blackbird. Having them both under one cover is very nice.

Those books - and thus this one - are a wealth of information. The color film of the assembly process is amazing. The books recount the histories of "Oxcart", the CIA's single-pilot Blackbird, the A-12, and the morphing of it into "Senior Crown", the two-manned USAF operated SR-71. The technical details of the concept, development and design, creation and deployment of the aircraft are fascinating. Mr. Crickmore supplies an amazing amount of detailed information about the aircraft systems, including the description of Birdwatcher and the ECM suite. I knew the Blackbird was an incredible feat of engineering, but this book reveals just how extraordinary the aircraft truly was. The description of the Birdwatcher aircraft monitoring system and the ECM suite is fascinating, as is the operational story of the pilots who flew the missions. Concepts, designs and creation of new technologies to even build the aircraft is covered. Nomenclature is presented, e.g., CIA Blackbirds were referred to as "Articles", and "Blackbird" is mainly an outsider's name for the A-12/SR-71 family. The book also includes information on the attempt to make a "fighter" of the Convair B-58 Hustler!

The book also recounts several noteworthy missions that provided intel that helped keep the Cold War cold. It also presents a look at the jealousy, turf wars and incomprehensible thinking that killed the Blackbird in back alley infighting deep in the bowels of USAF and between other elements inside The Beltway. To paraphrase an exasperated 20-year career military officer who spent most of his time around Washington DC, 'never let national security nor logic get in the way of pettiness and willful ignorance.'

Finally, Surviving Aircraft Histories presents photos and data about the 30 aircraft preserved and displayed around the country. Presented is location, type, Article/Serial, Airframe hours, and remarks.

Photos and Art
The book is full of amazing images that make it attractive to modelers of Blackbirds. Color images of Blackbirds on the assembly line at The Skunk Works and of key components are enough for me to acquire a copy of this book. I did not count every photo yet it appears that every one used in the two Air Vanguard books are in this compact chronicle.

It only appears that a few illustrations by artist Adam Tooby were sacrificed to make room, but perhaps none were. The illustrations are;

1. Diagram of airframe heating at cruise, keyed to temperatures.

2. SR-71 cutaway keyed to 31 components.

3. Combat scene: A-12 Article 129 under concentrated SA-2 SAM attack during mission BX6734.

4. Combat scene: Article 127 under SAM attack.

5. Profile: M-21 Article 135 and D-21 drone.

6. Planform: D-21 and M-12.

7. Profile: YF-12.

8. Profile: "Rosemary's Baby", SR-71 61-7980 with tail art.

9. Combat scene: SR-71 61-7980 being intercepted by a MiG-31.

10. Profile: Article 130, Serial 60-6933).


A. YF-12A/AIM-47 Missile Firing Record with Date, Mission Number, YF-12 (serial), Speed, Altitude, Target, Target Altitude.

B. Appendix 1: Specifications for A-12 and SR-71A: Crew; Powerplant; dimensions; Weights; Performance; Reconnaissance equipment.

C. Appendix 2: Blackshield Missions Log with date, Mission no, target, pilot, Article number.

D. Appendix 3: Losses of A-12, M-12, YF-12A, SR-71 with tail number, Article No, remarks.

E. Appendix 4: World Speed and Altitude Records of YF-12A and SR-71.

That wealth of photos and artwork and graphics greatly enhances and supports the text.

Modelers and enthusiasts of the legendary Blackbirds will find this compact concise chronicle a valued resource. It reveals a wealth of fascinating history about the aircraft and pilots, from conceptual through technical and operational, to personal. The quality of photographic and graphic support is excellent. I really have nothing of consequence to criticize the book about except that it may have sacrificed a few illustration, but I am not certain of that.

This book should be welcomed and popular with modelers, historians and enthusiasts of the iconic A-12/SR-71 family, whose crews utilized the evolutionary design of this revolutionary aircraft to keep the Cold War cold. Recommended!

Please tell vendors and retailers that you saw this book here - on Aeroscale.
Highs: Detailed concise combination of two Air Vangaurd books that looses none of the technical nort operatioanl history of the Blackbird. Text is enhanced with an exceptional gallery of photos and art.
Lows: De minimis.
Verdict: This book should be welcomed and popular with modelers, historians and enthusists of the iconic A-12/SR-71 family, whose crews utilized the evolutionary design of this revolutionary aircraft to keep the Cold War cold.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: GNA
  PUBLISHED: Jun 16, 2016
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright 2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


two books in one. good information.
JUN 16, 2016 - 08:53 PM

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