Fastest Aircrafts and Beyond the Sound Barrier

Lockheed SR-71 BlackBirdCredit:


In 1966 the United States Air Force commissioned the Lockheed SR-71 “Black Bird”, also named “Lady in Black.  Many others have called it the infamous “Habu”.  It was developed as a long-range strategic reconnaissance aircraft for the military to seek out top secret information from high altitudes.  This aircraft became a valuable asset during the Cold War.  The SR-71 was also equipped with a peripheral image camera which could take photos from outside of enemy airspace.  Of its supersonic high speed capabilities, it could travel a speed of mach 3.3 , which is approximately 2,200+ mph (1900+knots) at an altitude of 80,000 ft.  It could outrun any ground-to-air missle and faster than a speeding bullet. 


 For example, the SR-71 broke a speed record of traveling from Los Angeles, CA to Washington D.C. in 64 minutes and 20 seconds. Thats as much time to watch that favorite episode of M.A.S.H.! 


                                    Lockheed SR-71 DiagramCredit:


Wingspan: 55ft 7in (16.94 m)
Length:  107ft 5in (32.74 m)
Max Speed: Mach 3.3
Fuel:  JP-7 Jet Fuel
Engines: 2 Pratt & Whitney J58-P4

An interesting fact about this Jet is how they managed to start the engines.  The two Pratt & Whitney J58-P4 needed to be jump started from an external engine called the "start cart".  Beyond the engines, this aircraft had an intentional fuel leak while the aircraft was on the ground.  The reason for this was because when the SR-71 reached supersonic speeds, the heat friction that was created actually expanded the metal on the airplane and closed off the leak.  As this issue was known, the fuel tanks were near empty at takeoff, so an air-to-air fuel tanker was waiting above so the SR-71 could refuel its tanks for the remainder of its mission.



SR-71 Blackbird RefuelingCredit: U.S. Department of Defence

Toward the end of the SR71's active status, 32 jets were ever built.  Twelve were lost and only one pilot had died in accidents.  None were related to enemy encounters. As of 1976, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird is still considered the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft. By 1998, the remainder of the active Jets were placed in permanent retirement and to be distributed throughout to many museums, one being the Smithsonian - National Air and Space Museum.

North American X-15


North American X-15Credit: Wikipedia

The X-15 is still considered in 2012 the most significant research achievement in aviation history, with exception to the astonishing efforts of the Wright Brothers discovering the first powered aircraft in history.  The X-15 became the fastest aircraft in its history on  October 3, 1967, with a speed of Mach 6.7 (approx.. 4520 mph).  In addition to breaking speed records, the X-15 also had the highest flight by a winged aircraft (in exception to the Space Shuttle) to travel an altitude of 354,200 feet.  North American X-15 3-viewCredit: Wikipedia

  •  Wingspan: 22 ft 4 in (6.8 m)
  • Length: 50 ft 9 in (15.45 m)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Thiokol XLR99-RM-2 liquid-fuel rocket engine, 70,400 lb, at 30 km (313 kN)
  • Maximum speed: Mach 6.72 (4,520 mph, 7,274 km/h)

 The North American X-15 was definitely a historic event in its own.  According to the NASA History Website, its states that the X-15" provided an enormous wealth of data on hypersonic air flow, aerodynamic heating, control and stability at hypersonic speeds, reaction controls for flight above the atmosphere, piloting techniques for reentry, human factors, and flight instrumentation." It almost sounds like a late night infomercial.....But Wait theres More...  

Now being nearly  45 years from the time this rocket jet was creating history,  the X-15 still can hold its own in speed.  It might not be currently the fastest; however, it will still give you a run for its money. 

Mikoyan-Gurevich Mig-25 Foxbat


Mig-25 FoxbatCredit: Wikipedia Commons

In 1964, the Mikoyan-Gurevich Mig-25 Foxbat took its first flight.  By 1970, it was brought into service for the Soviet Union.  The Mig-25 Foxbat is a Russian supersonic interceptor and reconnaissance jet aircraft.  This jet is still considered the fastest combat jet ever built.  It has a top speed of Mach 2.83; however was tested at 3.2, only for a short time due to risk of engine damage.  The power of the Mig-15 can produce a climb from take-off to 35000 feet in four minutes. It has twin R-15B-300 single-shaft turbojets and known for its high-wing sleeked back look.   

  Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 FoxbatCredit: Wikipedia Commons

  • Length:  64ft 10 in (19.75 m)
  • Wingspan: 45ft 11.5 in (14.01m)
  • Max Speed: Mach 3.2
  • Powerplant: 2 x Tumansky R-15B-300 afterburning turbojets

NASA Boeing X-43A Scramjet

NASA Boeing X-43A ScramJetCredit: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)


The X-43A is an unmanned aircraft that is capable of hypersonic speed.  As technology has emerged, using unmanned aircrafts have been an intriguing way to gain data without the chance of jeopardizing a pilots life.  The X-43A aircraft is much smaller and much lighter than any other manned aircraft.  When picturing the size of this aircraft, you could literally drop it in the middle of your living room and have room to spare. 

X-43 Specifications:

- Weight (weight) = 2860 (1300 kg)
- Length = Approx. 12 feet (3.7 meters)
- Top speed =
7,546 mph Mach 9.8 (12,144 km / h)

On a trial day for NASA, the NASA Boeing X43A begins its journey in a 3 part launch.  The First part, it is being shuttled from a B-52, where it is attached to a Pegasus rocket.  Once the B-52 reaches the desired altitude, part 2 then begins as the Pegasus rocket and X43A are dropped free fall until the Pegasus fires up its rockets and begins the next phase of climbing altitude.  Once the Pegasus Rockets reaches its top speed and altitude, it then jettisons the NASA Boeing X-43A.  Scramjets are now ignited on the X-43A and acceleration begins finalizing a climb to 90,000 feet and reaching a top speed of Mach 9.8.     

If you have seen the movie “Stealth” starring Joshua Lucas, Jessica Biel, and Jamie Foxx, the fictional jet they fly is a  F/A-37 Talon scramjet which plays a role in their career flying hypersonic missions across the globe.  Scramjets might seem very science fiction; however, they have become a genuine reality to new speeds that our world has ever seen.  Some might believe that rockets are the best tool for acceleration and speed, although controlling a rocket is very difficult.  Using scramjet technology can act very similar to rocket propulsion, but it can be throttled back to normal flying status thrust.  As spaceflight is becoming people-friendly, jets will someday be carrying people with scramjet technology to reach new heights and adventures never thought to happen. 

The DARPA Falcon HTV-2

DARPA Falcon HTV-2Credit: DARPA

The DARPA Falcon HTV-2 is considered "the fastest airplane", except with much debate.  This unmanned experimental aircraft is one of the few that DARPA has be working for the past several years to help in scientific discoveries.  The idea of the Falcon HTV-2 began in 2003 and began testing the first application of it in 2010.  In april 2010, its first flight took place and it flew speeds between Mach 17 and Mach 22 (roughly 13000 mph)!  The discoveries of speeds were exceptional, however it had lost communication which caused it then to default and automatically crash into the ocean.  In its second attempt for discovery in 2011, similar circumstance, within nine minutes of flight it lost contact.

DARPA Falcon HTV-2 Flight PathCredit: DARPA