During its career, the SR-71 Blackbird gathered intelligence in some of the world’s most hostile environments. The SR-71 was conceived to operate at extreme velocities, altitudes and temperatures: actually it was the first aircraft constructed with titanium, as the friction caused by air molecules passing over its surface at Mach 2.6 would melt a conventional aluminum frame.
Its engineering was so cutting edge that even the tools to build the SR-71 needed to be designed from scratch.
Moreover, SR-71 Blackbird Mach 3 + spy plane crew members carried some interesting gear while flying over Soviet-controlled airspace in the coldest part of the Cold War.
In fact, although no SR-71 was ever shot down, Blackbird’s pilots and RSOs had a survival kit fitted with several non-traditional items.
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.”
The gun included in the SR-71 survival kit was a very rare aluminum gun: the gun was made in aluminum to keep it lightweight.
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.”
Another item that was carried in the pressure suite (not in the survival kit that was in the ejection seat) was a sealed envelope that the SR-71 crews were supposed to give to anyone who was causing them trouble. My father 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.
Be sure to check out Linda Sheffield Miller (Col Richard (Butch) Sheffield’s daughter, Col. Sheffield was an SR-71 Reconnaissance Systems Officer) Facebook Page Habubrats for awesome Blackbird’s photos and stories.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force and Linda Sheffield Miller
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