YouTube / The Museum of Flight
The M-21 Blackbird is eerily similar to the iconic SR-71. Some might even think it IS the SR-71, but it isn’t. Here are three things you should know about the modified version of the A-12.
The museum’s M-21 is the first of the rare two-seat variants of the early A-12. It was built for the CIA program called “Tagboard,” with the intent to carry an unmanned D-21 drone to gather intelligence. These drones were designed to be launched from the M-21 mothership’s pylons over hostile territories.
Thanks to the engineers that worked on the M-21 (and its other Blackbird variants), the aircraft’s cockpit is generally well-ventilated even though it could reach speeds of up to Mach 2. However, its crews said that even with 3 to 4 protective layers on their gloves, they could still feel the heat on the cockpit’s glass if they touched it.
They could even heat up food if they pushed it up against the glass! It’s so hot that one of the cooler parts of the aircraft can heat up to around 500 degrees Fahrenheit…
Flying at faster speeds, higher altitudes, and longer ranges than most, the M-21 and its Blackbird family usually carry around six fuel tanks – from the front to the back. The pilot could transfer fuel by pressing this red switch to maintain a good center of gravity.
They can also move fuel aft by holding down the Fuel Dump switch below the main switch.