Home » A rare aluminum gun was included in the survival kit for the SR-71 Blackbird crew members

A rare aluminum gun was included in the survival kit for the SR-71 Blackbird crew members

by Till Daisd
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The survival kit carried by Blackbird’s pilots and RSOs included a few unconventional items, even though no SR-71 was ever shot down

The Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft were the basis for the development of the long-range, Mach 3+ strategic reconnaissance aircraft known as the SR-71, or “Blackbird,” as it was informally called. The 4200th (later 9th) Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, California, received the first SR-71 to begin service in January 1966. The first SR-71 flight occurred on December 22, 1964.

Nothing that had come before the Blackbird could compare to it.“Everything had to be invented. Everything,” in an interesting article that surfaced on the Lockheed Martin website, renowned aircraft designer Kelly Johnson of Skunk Works recalled.

During its service, the SR-71 Blackbird gathered intelligence in some of the most dangerous environments on Earth. Blackbird’s pilots and RSOs carried a survival kit that included a few unconventional items, even though no SR-71 was ever shot down.

SR-71 Blackbird Pilots Survival Kit

The inclusion of an extremely uncommon aluminum gun in the Blackbird’s survival kit is quite interesting! Aluminum was used to make the gun lightweight. Rodney Miller was informed about the gun for protection by his former SR-71 Reconnaissance Systems Officer (RSO), Col. Richard (Butch) Sheffield.

According to Last Stand On Zombie Island, one long-standing joke/urban legend was that the SR-71’s survival kit contained: “One low-power 38 revolver; two boxes of ammunition; four days’ concentrated emergency rations; one drug issue containing antibiotics, morphine, vitamin pills, pep pills, sleeping pills, tranquilizer pills; one miniature combination Russian phrase book and Bible; one hundred dollars in rubles; one hundred dollars in gold; nine packs of chewing gum; one issue of prophylactics; three lipsticks; three pair of nylon stockings.”

However, as former Blackbird’s pilot Richard Graham explains in his book SR-71 Revealed the Inside History, “the survival kit contained standard Air Force survival items: a one-man life raft, day/night flares, desalinization kit, emergency UHF radio with spare batteries, first aid kit, thermal blanket, fishing gear, survival manual, and maps. Tethered between you and the survival kit was the inflated one-man life raft, ready for a water landing.”

An additional item carried in the pressure suite (not in the survival kit located in the ejection seat) was a sealed envelope containing instructions for the SR-71 crew members to present to anyone causing them trouble. Butch Sheffield gave the sealed envelope to the base commander in South Korea when they were upset about having an SR-71 land on their tiny base. We are not sure what was in that envelope or what it said but the base commander smiled and then was compatible and willing to do anything to make the crew comfortable.

Check out the Habubrats SR-71 and Born into the Wilde Blue Yonder Facebook pages for further Blackbird photos and stories.

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

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