Here's Why, in 1986, Gaddafi's SAMs Couldn't Touch America's SR-71 Blackbirds

Dario Leone
By USAF/Brian Shul - Shul, Brian (1994). The Untouchables. Mach One. p. 115. ISBN 0929823125., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25084685

Dario Leone

History, Middle East

The SR-71s were too fast.

Here's Why, in 1986, Gaddafi's SAMs Couldn't Touch America's SR-71 Blackbirds

“We are a roaring express now, and as we roll through the enemy’s backyard, I hope our speed continues to defeat the missile radars below.”

On Apr. 14, 1986, Operation El Dorado Canyon launched air-strikes against Libya in response to Libya’s bombing of a Berlin discotheque frequented by US military personnel. The attack was performed by a strike-group of 18 U.S. Air Force (USAF) F-111s supported by numerous U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) A-6, A-7 and F/A-18 aircraft.

On Apr. 16, 1986 after the raid, SR-71 #64-17960 piloted by Maj. Brian Shul with RSO Maj.Walter Watson, entered Libyan airspace at a blistering 2,125 mph to photograph the targets for bomb damage assessment (BDA). As they neared the end of their sweeps, they started receiving launch indications from Libyan surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites below.

The story of how the SR-71 incredible performance allowed them to hold their course and outrun the missiles before returning home safely to RAF Mildenhall is told by Shul himself in his book Sled Driver.

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