Here’s how two little Dents placed on the Nose of the SR-71 prevented Surface-to-air Missiles from Scoring any Hit on the Blackbird

Two little Dents placed on the Nose of the Blackbird prevented Surface-to-air Missiles from Scoring any Hit on the SR-71. Here’s how.

By Linda Sheffield Miller
Feb 5 2023
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They aren’t dents, they were put there on purpose for the more advanced ECM systems the SR-71 Blackbird got in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s.

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During its career, the SR-71 Blackbird gathered intelligence in some of the world’s most hostile environments.

Throughout its nearly 24-year career, the SR-71 remained the world’s fastest and highest-flying operational aircraft. From 80,000 feet, it could survey 100,000 square miles of Earth’s surface per hour.

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.

Here’s how two little Dents placed on the Nose of the SR-71 prevented Surface-to-air Missiles from Scoring any Hit on the Blackbird
Richard Butch Sheffield and Bob Spencer

My Dad and former SR-71 RSO Richard “Butch” Sheffield (Butch was his nickname because of his haircut that he had back in the 60s) he used to point to the nose of the SR-71 Blackbird when we would meet him at the Udvar Air and Space Smithsonian Museum in Virginia. He would point to the dimples and say “This is really important but I can’t talk about it.”

He would smile.

I could just tell he wanted to tell me but he didn’t.

My father and Bob Spencer flew in one of the most important missions in the SR-71 when they got the SA- 5 Missile Signal flying within inches of the Russian border. Getting that signal was very important for the defense of the SR-71.

No one ever shot down an SR-71 they never even got close. Speed and defense made it impossible.

The nose is coming off! How a T-38 trainer helped a SR-71 that was losing her nose section in flight to RTB
SR-71 Nose Section

According to former Blackbird pilot Col. Richard H. Graham’s book SR-71 The Complete Illustrated History of THE BLACKBIRD The World’s Highest , Fastest Plane, the nose section allowed the SR-71 to have radar-imaging capability with the advanced synthetic aperture radar system (ASARS), photographic imagery with the optical bar camera (OBC), or a ballast installed. The nose section was held on by faun-massive fasteners.

However, my doubt remained unanswered.

What are those two little dents on the nose of the SR-71 Blackbird?

‘I’m assuming you’re talking about the two “dents” in the chines at the front part of the nose, one on each side? Those aren’t dents, those were put there on purpose for the more advanced ECM systems the Blackbird got in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s,’ says Kelly Pedron, an aviation expert, on Quora.

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

‘There weren’t any good places to put the ECM receivers in the front of the aircraft, so those “dents” were put in the chine to allow the installation of ECM receivers there. If you’ll notice, the flat part of the “dent” is facing about 60 degrees forward, in order to cover that quadrant of the airspace around the aircraft. Earlier models of the SR, including the A-12, were more concerned with attack radar signals from the rear, so front-mounted ECM receivers weren’t as necessary at the time. With the advent of more advanced Soviet SAM systems, like the S-200 and S-300, a forward warning receiver and jammer were required, hence the development of the so-called ECM “dents” in the nose.’

Pedron concludes;

‘So, yes, those were put there on purpose; nobody accidentally taxied an SR-71 into a solid object.’

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 Born into the Wilde Blue Yonder for awesome Blackbird’s photos and stories.

Photo credit: Linda Sheffield Miller and U.S. Air Force

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird model
This model is available in multiple sizes from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

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Linda Sheffield Miller

Linda Sheffield Miller

Grew up at Beale Air Force Base, California. I am a Habubrat. Graduated from North Dakota State University. Former Public School Substitute Teacher, (all subjects all grades). Member of the DAR (Daughters of the Revolutionary War). I am interested in History, especially the history of SR-71. Married, Mother of three wonderful daughters and four extremely handsome grandsons. I live near Washington, DC.
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