The SR-71 reconnaissance aircraft was the world's fastest jet-propelled aircraft and the most advanced member of the Blackbird family developed by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation’s clandestine “Skunk Works” division. The SR-71 accrued nearly 2,800 hours of flight time during its 24 years of service with the U.S. Air Force. According to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, which prominently features an SR-71 at its Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the aircraft was designed to fly deep into hostile territory, avoiding interception with its tremendous speed and high altitude. It could operate safely at a maximum speed of Mach 3.3 at an altitude more than sixteen miles above the earth.
During its operational lifetime, the SR-71 provided intelligence about the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, the American air forces raid on Libya in 1986 and the revelation of Iranian Silkworm missile batteries in 1987. The U.S. Air Force ceased SR-71 operations in January 1990.