What is the aeroplane in the first image?

I noticed this photo in a youtube clip, and at first glance thought it was a three-engine Blackbird SR-71, but it appears to be a single-seater.

enter image description here

The text and audio does not reveal what the photo is of.


Some googling suggests that is a D-21 drone atop a M-21, and wikipedia has this somewhat-unhelpful photo.


  • 3
    $\begingroup$ That photo is from the Boeing Museum of Flight, in Seattle, WA. Detailed description here: museumofflight.org/Exhibits/blackbird $\endgroup$
    – abelenky
    Oct 21, 2018 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ @abelenky Nice find - thank you. Shows a more useful photo, $\endgroup$
    – Criggie
    Oct 21, 2018 at 20:26
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ The aircraft in the video is an M-21 and is actually a two place aircraft. One Pilot and one Launch Control Officer. $\endgroup$ Oct 21, 2018 at 21:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ indeed. The rear windows are visible, albeit difficult to see due to the quality of the image. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Oct 22, 2018 at 4:47

2 Answers 2


The large aircraft is the Lockheed M-21 (which was developed from the Lockheed A-12, the same aircraft that the SR-71 was developed from), and the smaller aircraft is the D-21 drone.

The wikipedia article on the D-21 has a lot of information.

  • $\begingroup$ Deep Space thanks. Apparently some editor has taken a rather amoeboid response to my answer. FYI the MD remark was humor! $\endgroup$ Oct 21, 2018 at 20:13

It’s called an M-21 Blackbird. It’s a derivative of the A-12/SR-71 family of aircraft modified for launching a supersonic ramjet powered reconnaissance drone called the D-21 (“M” designation standing for “Mothership” and “D” standing for “Daughtership”). The program never worked out and destroyed one aircraft which the drone collided with during separation and launch tests. The D-21 drones made several more flights, albeit by launching from a B-52 bomber using a rocket booster to accelerate it to Mach 3, but all but one flight failed, either crashing over enemy territory or sinking in the ocean either due to vehicle or telemetry failure. The last known M-21 Blackbird is on display at Seattle’s Museum of Flight at KBFI.


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