How long did it take for the SR-71 to go from taking off to 80,000 ft, including refueling?


1 Answer 1


According to the performance data in the manual it takes 19.9 minutes to get to 70,600 feet.

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Refueling time will depend on how much fuel is needed for the mission as well as how long it takes to hook up to the tanker. The manual covers the operations for that but I dont see a flow rate of fuel in there. A lot of that stuff is covered in this podcast.

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    $\begingroup$ @bogl good catch, I have updated. $\endgroup$
    – Dave
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 16:11
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    $\begingroup$ That's an average ROC of 3,500 fpm. Or to put it another way, the vertical component alone of the climb is 35 knots! That must have been like riding a tiger. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 23:37
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    $\begingroup$ @WayneConrad, you should listed to the linked podcast, most of the backbird pilots note that aside from the high landing/approach speed the plane did not really feel that fast due to the altitude and lack of close references as you climb.I think the exact quote was "you get a greater sensation of speed at 500 ft above ground in a piper cub" $\endgroup$
    – Dave
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 23:43
  • $\begingroup$ That makes sense. Wilco, thanks. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 1:22
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    $\begingroup$ Chapter 4 of "SR-71 Revealed" by Richard Graham states that refueling rates from both the KC-10 and KC-135Q were 6,000 lbs per minute. He ballparks 15 minutes for a full refuel, though it seems like the operational details on refueling varied a lot per-mission, and even a single refueling rendezvous may have involved refueling from more than tanker operating in a "cell". $\endgroup$
    – Erin Anne
    Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 3:12

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