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and for helping launch my new Mustard store.
More on that after this video.
In the midst of the Cold War,
two Mig-25s race to intercept a threatalong the Soviet border.
They’re the fastest interceptors ever built,
and if they really push their engines,
they can reach an incredible Mach 3.2.
But it’s not enough.
Because what they’re chasing can outrun and out-climb any threat.
A plane engineered to be invulnerable.
THE SR-71 BLACKBIRD
The Cold War locked the United States and Soviet Union into a tense struggle
for global influence and control.
Both sides poured enormous resources into military technologies.
But getting an upper hand means knowing your opponent’s next move.
And in the 1950s, little was known about facilities deep within the Soviet Union.
An extensive network of radar stations, surface-to-air missile sites,
and interceptor air bases kept theAmericans away.
Until 1956, when U-2 spy planes began flying over the Soviet Union.
Neither fast nor stealthy, the U-2s had one critical advantage.
At 70,000 feet, they could fly above Soviet air defenses. U.S.
President Eisenhower was evenassured,
Soviet radars couldn’t detect the U-2 at such high altitudes.
But it turns out, the Americans were wrong.
The Soviets had tracked the U-2 since day one,
and it was only a matter of time
before they’d be able to shoot one down.
Simply flying high wasn’t enough.
Even before the U-2 began its surveillance missions,
there were already plans underway to replace it.
Because true impunity over Soviet airspace would need a combination
of incredible speed, altitude, and stealth.
And this led the Americans to explore
some pretty radical spy plane concepts,
like a ramjet powered aircraft that
would be deployed from the bottom of a supersonic B-58.
But in 1959, the CIA chose Lockheed to develop the next generation of spy plane.
Meanwhile, the U-2 continued to fly overthe Soviet Union.
But not for very long,
because in the spring of 1960,
a Soviet surface-to-air missile finally managed to bring one down.
The captured pilot andwreckage were paraded around the Soviet Union
used as proof of Westernaggression.
As tensions rose,
now more than ever the US needed a replacement for the U-2.
And what Lockheed developed, would be unlike any aircraft ever built.
A plane that nearly 60 years after its first flight,
remains the fastest air-breathing jet to ever fly.
Lockheed’s highly-classified spy plane would be known as the A-12.
Originally used by the CIA for reconnaissance,
the A-12 was also developed into an interceptor prototype,
armed with air-to-air missiles,
along with a variant that could launch an unmanned reconnaissance drone.
But it was the SR-71 Blackbird,
a variant developed for the Air Force that would go on to serve for decades,
while earlier versionswere quickly retired.
The Blackbird could cruise at Mach 3.2 right near the edge of space,
and do it for hours on end.
To achieve this,
Lockheed’s engineers had to innovate pretty much everything from scratch.
To sustain such incrediblespeeds the SR-71 and its predecessors
were powered by engines often described as turboramjets.
Below Mach 2 they functioned like conventional after-burning jet engines.
But above that, they behaved more like ramjets,
as an inlet cone adjusted to bypass air around
the engine and directly into theafterburner.
At mach 3.2 the SR-71’s
exterior would heat up to beyond 500 degrees Fahrenheit,
easily hot enough to soften aircraft aluminum.
Lockheed engineers used titanium for 92 percent of the aircraft,
and in the 1960s this required inventing entirely new fabrication technologies.
It’s unusual shape did more than just spook UFO enthusiasts,
it helped reduce its radar signature
as did its special black paint,
which earned the SR-71 its Blackbirdname.
The A-12 and SR-71 were first deployed over North Korea and Vietnam,
where they were unsuccessfully targeted by over 800 surface-to-air missiles.
But the spy plane never flew into Soviet airspace.
At least not officially,
because another shoot-down over the Soviet Union would be catastrophic.
So instead, the SR-71 flew along its borders,
using its powerful side-looking radar and cameras
to peer hundreds of miles into Soviet territory.
And that frustrated the Soviets.
In 1976, Viktor Belenko defected to the west,
by escaping the Soviet Union in his Mig-25.
He described the frustration of trying to intercept Blackbirds.
The MiG’s were Mach 3 capable,
but only for a few minutes at a time.
Not for hours like the Blackbird.
Nor could they climb to reach the SR-71’s incredible altitude.
Even their enormous R40 missiles lacked the
guidance needed to strike the SR-71 head-on.
For years, the Blackbirds were practically invulnerable.
They could out fly and out-climb any threat.
But by the 1980s, Mig-31s were roaming the skies,
equipped with sophisticated radar and long-range R33 missiles.
They poseda legitimate threat, as did a new
generation of Soviet surface-to-airmissiles. But the greatest threat to the
Blackbird wasn’t an enemy missile or jet.
It was itself.
No Blackbird was ever lost
on a mission, but more than a third
of the 50 built were destroyed in accidents.
One literally disintegrated around itspilots. They were also enormously
expensive to operate.
Each one siphoningabout 300 million dollars a year out of
America’s defense budget.
A fleet ofspecial aerial refuelers and a small army
of support and maintenance staff were
needed just to keep these planes mission ready.
And advances in spy satellites aerial drones and the SR-71 s inability
to deliver surveillance data in real time,
diminished some of the plane’s utility.
Add to that,
politics and infighting for defense budgets and by
the late 1980s, the SR-71’s days were numbered.
They were officially retired in 1998, with two sent to NASA for testing.
The technology behind the A-12 and SR-71 is now well over fifty years old.
Yet somehow these incredible planesstill speak to us.
Not about the past, but
the future. Leaving us with a sense
of wonder unlike any other in aviation history.
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感谢 Squarespace 资助我完成这个视频