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The SR-71 has come to represent the very pinnacle of Cold War aircraft design - indeed, it has become an icon. Together with its predecessor, the A-12, the Blackbird was a giant leap into the technical unknown as the design employed many forms of new technology made necessary by the excesses of speed, altitude and temperature to which the aircraft was subjected. Throughout its 34-year Air Force career, the SR-71 proved itself to be the world's fastest and highest flying operational manned aircraft. It set a number of world records for altitude and speed, including an absolute altitude record of 85,069ft on 28 July 1974, and an absolute speed record of 2,193.2mph the same day. This truly was a unique and ground-breaking aircraft, whose fascinating design history is explored here in full and illuminated with photographs and detailed technical illustrations.