The first one took flight over fifty years ago and we still talk about it as if they represent the promise of the future. As a culture and community, we rarely view Project Apollo in the same way. To me, in contrast to the Blackbird, our first step outside our cradle looks dated. The Saturn V is an ode to the sheer force of will required to send human beings to another heavenly body. It certainly looks the part. The Blackbirds, on the other hand, were precise, surgical instruments designed to cut borders and they look the part. Every element of the plane ends in that sharp-looking edge. There are no blunt surfaces on it. It’s one complex curve wrapped around itself and stretched into that timeless shape.
And that's before you pull back on the curtain. I don't have online sources for this, but I have read books about the project that explained how every single part within the Blackbirds - from the engines to the paint - was brought into being for this project. They set out to do something so daring and so pioneering that they had to invent new alloys to do it. And then they had to build the machines to work that alloy: new machines - tape-based robots - to precisely carve it into shape, new procedures to put it together, and new philosophies to let it fly. These planes were designed to fly so fast that ordinary Titanium-based alloys would melt or weaken over time leading to rapid, unplanned disassembly. They didn’t have more advanced ceramics which could do the job, so Kelly Johnson’s team came up with a new alloy that was annealed - or re-tempered - in flight, so that it became stronger and stronger over time. Theoretically above some classified altitude the Blackbird can go much faster than Mach 3 and keep on going until the airframe melts away at some crazy high, theoretical speed no one has bothered to check.
They did all of that in a past where the most sophisticated engineering tool in common use was a slide rule and the first scientific pocket calculator was nearly a decade into the future.
Do you ever wonder when we'll build something so daring that it will finally eclipse this project? I do. Paraphrasing Thiel, "what happened to the future? We were promised Blackbirds and got the F-35 instead."
It's kinda weird how the F-35 just looks somehow dated and like a slob compared to e.g. the older (and cooler looking) F-22. Though perhaps "cool looks" is maybe not the prime factor in fighter jet selection...
This quote opens an essay on beauty by Paul Graham, http://www.paulgraham.com/taste.html
The urban legend about why the X-32 lost out to what become the F-35 is it having a stooopid looking mouth on it: https://i.imgur.com/1GW21we.jpg
If you were to write down all the ways in which you could measure an airplane—payload, fuel, ordnance, handling—and ask 100 pilots to rank which is the most important, I guarantee you that 100 out of 100 pilots would say “situational awareness.” By far. Not a single pilot in the world would say “turn radius.” Not one. Because the more you know, the more accurately you know it, the better able you are to make a decision.
In situational awareness, the F-35 is superior to all platforms, including the Raptor. I’d never been in an airplane that so effectively and seamlessly integrates information to tell me what’s going on around me—and not just from the radio frequency spectrum, but laser, infrared, electro-optical. That’s usually the first thing people notice when they get in the airplane. They know so much more than they ever knew before.
With that said, if push came to shove, the electronics on the F-22 could be quickly replaced/augmented to either have a focused IRST ala the SU-35 or a 360 system like F-35's EODAS. Your argument is in line with "It would be difficult to restart the F-22's production line." Sure, but neither doing that or updating it would cost nearly as much as the amount of money that went into the F-35.
I think IRST wasn't made a priority because the US expects to have AWACS wherever they operate and the F-22s to shoot based on AWACS data without ever actively emitting themselves anyway. That or planes toggling radar one at a time and passing data via datalink to their squadron, which makes them fairly safe (at least that was the idea with datalinks).
EDIT: Thanks everyone, I wasn't aware that the F22 had a higher price and additional export restrictions.
One F-22 vs one F-35 is a contest obviously in favor of the F-22. One F-22 vs. three F-35s becomes a lot more ambiguous, particularly when we are not at war and there's no guarantee that any of these planes will do anything more than force projection.
(The F-35 very much seems like a peacetime fighter to me, and that may be exactly what the U.S. needs right now. History has shown that basically all your assumptions about how the next war will unfold go out the window once the next war actually starts. Under those conditions, it may make more sense to try out a bunch of new technologies, keep the defense contractors alive and the aeronautical engineers employed, contain costs, and build enough numbers that you don't get completely steamrolled in the early days of a war. Then when war actually does break out, you rapidly adjust and build the planes that you actually need, when you have real data about what's winning on the battlefield.)
Also, don't forget that nuclear weapons still exist. Nuclear powers shooting down squadrons of each others fighters to achieve "victory" does not seem likely.
Other controversial opinion: I think that the assumption that the next major war will be between nation-states is a likely candidate for one that'll go out the window. In my view, the next major war will be like Syria but on a global scale, with many semi-organized subnational groups duking it out in exceptionally nasty urban & guerilla warfare.
2. F22's are only fighter jets. F35 for better and worse is designed to do just about everything.
But to be fair, as the other comments have pointed out the F-35 is lower cost, a decent peace time machine and is has flexible configurations.
The F-22 also can't be sold as an export.
Given a volunteer military, and remembering their advertising in high school, they probably want people to feel as cool as possible joining up too.
I've always thought it was a shame the YF-23 wasn't developed into the role eventually filled by the F-35. It had a lower radar cross-section than the F-22, could supercruise faster, had better range, and with the deletion of the afterburners (not necessary for the revised role, especially when you can truck along at M1.8 without them) it could have opened up a lot of space for additional weapons storage. And it was a long way to being a developed aircraft. Could have been finished much more cheaply than the F-35, no doubt.
 Not sure of the CG shift implications, though.
 Not sure if those savings would have been eaten up by higher operating costs.
Quote I've heard attributed to WW2 pilots, but google isn't helping me with.
We can't do that kind of engineering anymore. Computers have made us ... lazy? That's not really the word. With so much computing power at hand, we just don't have the pinpoint focus that it would take to make another SR-71 and not hobble it with over engineering and feature creep. Or even just being able to let go of a nagging problem. For example, a proper sealant couldn't be found to keep the fuel from leaking so they just said whatever and let it leak fuel until it warmed up. Nobody would do that today.
Computers didn't make us lazy, but the Git-R-Done mentality of the old projects got gobbled up by the bureaucracy in all of our big defense contractors/aerospace companies. It's super hard for a Kelly Johnson type to fend off thousands of middle managers all trying to justify their position.
The F-35 is a giant weird beast because it's massively multi-mission, but really as a backstop to what we can't do with drones, missiles, and satellites.
No, it's multimission because new airframe types for manned combat aircraft that could meet evolving demands were becoming giant weird beasts and getting exponentially more expensive (something that typically happens with classes of systems as they become unviable) anyway, and doing one airframe for almost every conceivable role was envisioned as a means of containing costs.
Still, I think the point about it being a backstop to unmanned aerial assets stands. I don't know if it needs to be optimized for any single mission when it's likely to be a worse choice than one of those assets.
Didn't they learn from the Phantom that one airframe for all tasks simply doesn't work ?
Will it not be most likely the last manned fighter jet?
Maybe not more, but up there with it are the Concorde, and the H&K G11.
Also, if you like the SR-71, check out the A-12. The immediate predecessor of the SR-71, very easy to confuse the two, with the notable exception of the A-12 having a single seat. I think that makes it even cooler. Just one pilot, no other aircrew, up there alone with the machine. That's really incredible to me.
With the wingtips are folded up, the A-12 looks like something out of Star Wars.
The triangular shape is reminiscent of B-2 Spirit, though these are of course completely different beasts. Both the A-12 and B-2 were designed during roughly the same era, late 1980s. I guess there was some kind of cross-pollination of ideas (maybe via DARPA) for a triangular design to appear like this?
Don't even bother trying to figure out US military naming schemes.
I suspect that the reason the A-12 and the B-2 looked alike is that there is enough similarity in mission that the best shape ended up that way. (Or as an old friend used to say, "aerodynamics can't lie.")
Knowing the CIA, that designation may have been misdirection too. 'Main battle tanks' are called 'tanks' today because of WWI era misdirection. Instead of calling them "armoured tractors" or something descriptive like that, the British called them "water carriers." The abbreviation of that (w.c.) was considered crude though, so they were renamed "tanks" as in a container for carrying water. This was to ensure any German spy who overheard the wrong conversation would get the wrong impression.
The Lockheed A-12 has a familiar appearance... I always thought it somehow looks like a flying dragrace car. Everything in it screams "fast".
And as for the "wrong" (McDonnell-Douglas) A-12, another thing I found interesting was that some of the modern drone designs also have the same triangular shape. (Like X47-B, X45-C/Phantom Ray, nEUROn, RQ-170)
And the X47-B can even fold its wings!
I'm very skeptical of these rumors. The SR-71 inlets were shaped for a specific range of mach numbers, and wouldn't work beyond that. Significant new engineering would be needed to go well beyond mach 3.5.
In an SR-71?
However, the economics of never really made sense in regards to its utility. Only during the cold war could such a project be dragged into the realm of possibility.
That's a rather understated way of saying "She'll fly herself apart!"
I should be working, but your comment was enthralling.
Some of my favorite stories include the fact that you could take off in the morning, fly up to the arctic circle, and back down in time for dinner in the evening.
Maybe we have, and just haven't been told about it.
It certainly looks cool though.
The parent comment simply talks about engineering challenges and it’s frankly amazing.
There was a story where Trump basically tried to get NASA to try and do a manned mars mission within 10 years. He said he’d offer them an unlimited budget. They said no.
Now, feasibility of any of this aside: that just depresses me more than anything I’d heard in a long while. You won’t even try? C’mon! What happened to “we are doing it not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard”? The mentality that we can do literally anything we put our minds to?
Look at the way that people want to vilify Elon Musk. Here’s a guy that embodies everything I grew believing was the American spirit, and apparently that makes him a bad guy. So sad.
"Cancel all your research projects and focus on a rushed, unsafe, mission to Mars within the next four years" isn't an offer I'd take either.
And that's even supposing he has the political power to actually give them the money he was offering. Which he doesn't.
There's a Tyson show on it, perhaps still on Netflix if interested.
They are going to try. Just a month before, Trump himself had signed a bill outlining a manned Mars mission, and the timeline to actually do it.
What they said no to was a spur of the moment request, made without discussing feasibility (or anything else about it) with anyone else before making it, to do it way way way faster than that.
Here's an article with the details .
NASA is an enormous entity with many different branches, and each aerospace mission must be planned and funded carefully. Upper management at NASA must also consider the politics of a situation; what would happen to NASA if they agreed to such an offer and failed to deliver results?
This seems like it was a political move by Trump that allowed him to look good by making a risky request. If NASA says "yes" and gets to Mars, Trump wins. If NASA says "yes" and fails to get to Mars, Trump says "I gave the money and you didn't do your part". If NASA says "no", Trump says "I offered them the money but they didn't take it".
 - https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/01/trump-ma...