In 1981 North Korea Fired A Missile At A U.S. Spy Plane Flying Near The DMZ

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Image: NASA Dryden Historical Research Aircraft Photo Collection

However, saying that you want a new type of plane doesn’t just wish it into being. The creators of the SR-71 were faced with a variety of design challenges in order to make this aircraft a reality. One of the most significant of these challenges was how to deal with the tremendous heat levels generated by a plane traveling so fast over such long distances. It was feared that the aircraft would simply melt.

Image: NASA Dryden Historical Research Aircraft Photo Collection

Lockheed’s engineers therefore had to try and think of a way around the problem. They used titanium to build the plane, but this proved not to be wholly effective. That was when Ben Rich, a member of Lockheed’s advanced development team, Skunk Works, came up with a simple but elegant solution.

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Image: NASA Dryden Historical Research Aircraft Photo Collection

Rich hit upon a design feature that is now industry standard in stealth technology. He remembered from a university course that the color black both absorbs and re-emits heat. Consequently, he had the new aircraft painted completely black.

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