Home » How two tiny dents on the SR-71 nose stopped surface-to-air missiles from hitting the Blackbird

How two tiny dents on the SR-71 nose stopped surface-to-air missiles from hitting the Blackbird

by Till Daisd
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The SR-71 Blackbird

The US Air Force (USAF) created the SR-71 Blackbird in the 1960s; it was a plane that could fly at a speed greater than three times the sound made by its own engines.

The SR-71 spy plane held the record for being the fastest and highest-flying operational aircraft in the world for about 24 years. At a speed of Mach 3+, it could cover 100,000 square miles of Earth’s surface per hour while flying at 80,000 feet. In the unlikely event that an enemy attempted to bring it down with a missile, the Blackbird just needed to accelerate and outpace it.

The SR-71’s engineering was so advanced that new tools had to be designed to build it.

Dents on the SR-71 Blackbird Nose

Former SR-71 RSO Richard “Butch” Sheffield (Butch was his nickname because of his haircut that he had back in the 60s) used to point to the nose of the SR-71 Blackbird. He would point to the dimples and say, “This is really important, but I can’t talk about it.”

He would smile.

Here’s how two little Dents placed on the Nose of the SR-71 prevented Surface-to-air Missiles from Scoring any Hit on the Blackbird
Richard Butch Sheffield and Bob Spencer

In the SR-71, he and Bob Spencer executed one of the most crucial missions when they intercepted an SA-5 missile that was flying just inches from the Russian border. Receiving that signal was important to the SR-71’s defense. An SR-71 was never shot down; none ever got close. It was impossible due to defense and speed.

According to former Blackbird pilot Col. Richard H. Graham’s book SR-71 The Complete Illustrated History of THE BLACKBIRD The World’s Highest, Fastest Plane, the nose section allowed the SR-71 to have radar-imaging capability with the advanced synthetic aperture radar system (ASARS), photographic imagery with the optical bar camera (OBC), or a ballast installed. The nose section was held on by faun-massive fasteners.

The Dents that prevented Surface-to-air Missiles from Scoring any Hit on the SR-71 Blackbird

What are those two little dents on the nose of the SR-71 Blackbird?

‘I’m assuming you’re talking about the two “dents” in the chines at the front part of the nose, one on each side? Those aren’t dents, those were put there on purpose for the more advanced ECM systems the Blackbird got in the ’70s and ‘80s,’ says Kelly Pedron, an aviation expert, on Quora.

‘There weren’t any good places to put the ECM receivers in the front of the aircraft, so those “dents” were put in the chine to allow the installation of ECM receivers there. If you’ll notice, the flat part of the “dent” is facing about 60 degrees forward, in order to cover that quadrant of the airspace around the aircraft. Earlier models of the SR, including the A-12, were more concerned with attack radar signals from the rear, so front-mounted ECM receivers weren’t as necessary at the time. With the advent of more advanced Soviet SAM systems, like the S-200 and S-300, a forward warning receiver and jammer were required, hence the development of the so-called ECM “dents” in the nose.’

Pedron concludes;

‘So, yes, those were put there on purpose; nobody accidentally taxied an SR-71 into a solid object.’

Check out Habubrats SR-71’s Twitter profile and Born into the Wilde Blue Yonder‘s Facebook page for further Blackbird photos and stories.

Photo by Linda Sheffield Miller and U.S. Air Force

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