USAF U-2 Avionics Technician tells why S-300 and S-400 SAMs would not be able to shoot down the SR-71 Blackbird

USAF U-2 Avionics Technician tells why S-300 and S-400 SAMs would not be able to shoot down the SR-71 Blackbird

By Linda Sheffield Miller
Jan 6 2024
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The SR-71 Blackbird

The SR-71 spy plane, the most advanced member of the Blackbird family that included the A-12 and YF-12, was designed by a team of Lockheed personnel led by Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, then vice president of Lockheed’s Advanced Development Company Projects, commonly known as the “Skunk Works” and now a part of Lockheed Martin. The Blackbird completed its first flight on Dec. 22, 1964.

SR-71 T-Shirts
CLICK HERE to see The Aviation Geek Club contributor Linda Sheffield’s T-shirt designs! Linda has a personal relationship with the SR-71 because her father Butch Sheffield flew the Blackbird from test flight in 1965 until 1973. Butch’s Granddaughter’s Lisa Burroughs and Susan Miller are graphic designers. They designed most of the merchandise that is for sale on Threadless. A percentage of the profits go to Flight Test Museum at Edwards Air Force Base. This nonprofit charity is personal to the Sheffield family because they are raising money to house SR-71, #955. This was the first Blackbird that Butch Sheffield flew on Oct. 4, 1965.

The SR-71 was designed to cruise at “Mach 3+,” just over three times the speed of sound or more than 2,200 miles per hour and at altitudes up to 85,000 feet.

During its 24 years of service, the SR-71 Blackbird gathered intelligence in some of the world’s most hostile environments. The Blackbird evaded all the missiles fired at it and, to this day, remains the only USAF aircraft to never lose a crewmember associated with it; whether in the air or on the ground.

But could the SR-71 be shot down by missile systems such as Russia’s S-300 or S-400?

SR-71 Blackbird Vs S-300 Vs S-400

But could the SR-71 be shot down by missile systems such as Russia’s S-300 or S-400?

‘Looks like I’m going to give the only “no” answer so far,’ Damien Leimbach, former USAF Avionics Technician on U-2 aircraft, says on Quora.

‘The S-200, S-300 and S-400 are amazing platforms, and given their stated performance, the 300 and 400 could probably hit a target at the Sr-71’s speed and altitude. But that is not the same as hitting an SR-71.

‘Now, could those missiles shoot down the version of the SR-71 that existed in the 70’s or 80’s? Sure.

USAF U-2 Avionics Technician tells why S-300 and S-400 SAMs would not be able to shoot down the SR-71 Blackbird
S-400 SAM

‘But the question was could it shoot down the SR-71 if it were still in service, and if it were still in service, it would have received the same jamming and Electronic Warfare upgrades as other planes have.

‘Would these EW jammer upgrades make the plane immune from those missiles? Yes it would.

‘How do I know? Well, because I spent 6 years, recently, working on the sibling of the SR-71, the U-2 and as an electronics specialist I was directly responsible for installing and maintaining the AN-ALQ 221 jammer that made our high flying (but slow moving) plane immune to those missiles as well.

‘The U-2 and the SR-71 don’t just take pictures. They listen to cell phones. They monitor radios. And they also listen to, record and analyze the frequencies, pulse rates, variable modes and power outputs of enemy SAM systems like the S-200, 300 and 400.’

Knowing everything about S-300 and S-400

He continues;

‘We know everything about them. We know how they work, so it’s very easy to design systems to defeat them. The -300 is 1970’s Russian technology, which makes it about as sophisticated from an electronics standpoint as 1950’s American tech. The 400 is just an upgraded version of that. But we’ve had a long time to study them and build electronic countermeasures.

‘When the Berlin wall fell in 1989, and East and West Germany reunified, the very first thing NATO did was go in and scoop up all the Russian military tech it could find. We got T-80’s, We got Fulcrums and we got entire missile battalions worth of S-300 missiles.

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

‘When other very poor nations like Belarus and Moldova split away from the USSR, we bought other stuff, like Flankers, Hinds, and more missile systems.

‘Only Russia, China and India operate the -400, but as much as they want access to American markets, I’m more than sure we’ve been allowed to peek at the equipment, and a missile or two may have fallen off a truck somewhere.

S-300 and S-400 could not shoot down the SR-71 Blackbird

‘Maybe its cheating a little, but buying out the competition is the American way. The point is, we know exactly what their missile systems can do and we’ve known for a long time. We build those upgrades into the U-2 and if we still flew the SR-71, we would build them into it as well.’

Leimbach concludes;

‘So, no, if modern weapons can’t even take down the U-2, they could not shoot down the SR-71.’

Be sure to check out Linda Sheffield Miller (Col Richard (Butch) Sheffield’s daughter, Col. Sheffield was an SR-71 Reconnaissance Systems Officer) Twitter Page Habubrats SR-71 and Facebook Page Born into the Wilde Blue Yonder for awesome Blackbird’s photos and stories.

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

Photo credit: Judson Brohmer / U.S. Air Force, Vitaly V. Kuzmin via Wikipedia and Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation

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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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