Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird
On View at Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

Cold War Aviation

The role of aerial reconnaissance in the post-World War II competition between superpowers.

After World War II ended, the United States and the Soviet Union began competing for primacy in a global struggle pitting democracy against communism. Tensions between the two superpowers led to such confrontations as the Berlin blockade, the downing of an American U-2 spy plane, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. "Hot" wars erupted in Korea and Vietnam.

Aerial reconnaissance played an important role in this struggle. To supersede its U-2 spy plane, Lockheed developed the top-secret, stealthy SR-71 Blackbird, the world's fastest jet-propelled aircraft, one of which is displayed here. The Cold War ended with the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and relations between the former adversaries began to warm.

Location in Museum

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
December 15, 2003
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