32 SR-71 Blackbirds were built. Able to fly at speeds of excess mach 3+ (2,000+ mph) at an altitude of 85,000 + feet. It was able to fly faster then the earth’s rotation!
To be able to withstand excessive heat of over 1000+ degrees, 92% of the SR-71 was built out of titanium inside and out. In 1964, Robert Gilliland took the first test flight. In 1966, the first SR-71 was delivered to Beale Air Force Base in California, the 1st reconnaissance Squadron. The mission of the SR-71 was to capture intelligence. It has 6 cameras on board and able to photography 100,000 square miles in one hour. It was able to take a photograph clear enough to read a licensee plate from 80,000 feet!
The HABU patch was only awarded to crews who had flown operational sorties. Over time HABU has come to be associated with all blackbird pilots and crews, but in the truest sense of the word, it represents only those who flew operational sorties. Were the first SR-71 was flown to their new remote base at Kadena AFB in Okinawa. The locals named the aircraft HABU, which is a venomous snake found in southeast Asia. Crews who flew the airplane were also called Habu, and the name came to be recognized with the blackbird program and even incorporated into the insignia worn by the crews on their uniforms.
In 1998, the Blackbird was retired from service due to the cost to keep it maintained and satellites. At the time it was the only aircraft that was shot at over 4,000 times and never shot down due to enemy fire. It holds many records and is still one of today’s most admired aircraft.