Revealed: the F-22's impact on the retirement of the SR-71

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Message posted by Vahe Demirjian (Member since 04/28/2022) on May 22, 2024 at 21:00:00 PST:

There's no doubt that many people did not take seriously assertions that a new generation of spy satellites in the late 1980s and early 1990s made continued operational use of the SR-71 redundant.

I just happened to see an article at the Aviation Geek Club website revealing that Lockheed's development of the YF-22 was another contributing factor to the retirement of the SR-71 in 1990. Retired SR-71 RSO Richard “Butch” Sheffield explains in his unpublished book “The Very First”:

"Satellites could never replace the SR-71. They don’t orbit east to west. Satellites can’t collect 100,000 miles of data per hour and it is easy to predict the path of a satellite. There was new money for projects in the Air Force if they went with satellites so they did. The Air Force Chief put Lockheed out of the SR-71 business. The Chief said that Lockheed trying to keep the SR-71 alive was going to hurt their chances of winning the F-22 contract [at the time the YF-22 was competing against the YF-23 in the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) program]! Contractors like Lockheed only have one customer the Department of Defense.

Open POM in 1985 Generals found out the cost for the first time of the SR 71. Open POM was to take classified programs such as the B-2, the F-117, and the SR-71 and reveal their cost to the air staff board so they could see what the Air Force was funding. It sounded like a good idea and probably was. The Air Force at that time had some of the new programs classified and hidden from view, but it was the kiss of death for the SR-71."

Attached link: SR-71 RSO recalls when USAF Chief of Staff warned Lockheed that trying to avoid SR-71 retirement would hurt chances to win the F-22 contract (and tells true story behind Blackbird retirement)


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