Cold War Era

Here’s why SR-71 tires are silver

The tire pressure on the SR-71 was 415 psi (compared to the 32-35 psi in your automobile tires!)

Why are SR-71 tires silver? SR-71 tires, like the one displayed here, were infused with powdered aluminum. The addition of aluminum to the rubber gave a much higher flash point to the tire, helping it withstand the high heat caused by friction with the ground upon landing at extreme speeds. The tires were also filled with nitrogen. By inflating the tires with nitrogen, instead of air, a fire would be less likely to start due to the absence of oxygen. The tire pressure on the SR-71 was 415 psi (compared to the 32-35 psi in your automobile tires!).Each tire cost $2,300 and would last for approximately 15 full-stop landings.

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. SR-71A Blackbird 61-7972 “Skunkworks”

Heat was not just a problem on the ground. The SR-71 needed to deflect a large amount of heat as it flew at an average speed of Mach 3, or roughly 2000 mph! At this extreme speed, the metal skin of the SR-71 would heat up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Over 90 percent of the aircraft’s frame was made of titanium to withstand the intense heat. In addition, the SR-71 was painted with a highly sophisticated and specially formulated black paint to radiate excess heat.

This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

The special paint also provided protection against detection by disturbing incoming radar energy, rendering the aircraft less detectable by enemy forces. An interesting side effect was the resulting changing of the speeding aircraft to a lovely blue.

Hill Aerospace Museum has one of the SR-71 tires on display.

In the following video, Scott Wiley, docent at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA, reveals how the SR-71’s tires keep from melting.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force and The Unwanted Blog

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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