In 1987 when an SR-71 Blackbird lost an engine while flying Mach 3 over the Baltic Sea, four Swedish jets prevented it from getting shot down by the Soviets. The mission was declassified 30 years later, and the four Swedish pilots that protected the Blackbird were awarded the US Air Medal

That Time A Crippled SR-71 Blackbird In Emergency Was Intercepted By Four Swedish Viggens After Violating Sweden’s Airspace

An interesting Cold War episode worth 4 medals.

During the 1980s, the U.S. flew regular SR-71 Blackbird aircraft reconnaissance missions in international waters over the Barents Sea and the Baltic Sea, the latter known as “Baltic Express” missions. On June 29, 1987, during one of those missions, a Blackbird launched from RAF Mildenhall, UK, piloted by retired Lt. Cols. Duane Noll and Tom Veltri, experienced a pretty serious inflight emergency.

Flying a northern course, at 75,000 feet and Mach 3.0, its right engine exploded. In order to manage the emergency, the aircrew immediately turned towards Sweden, rapidly descending. At an altitude of 25,000 feet, approaching Gotland Island, the Blackbird violated the Swedish airspace triggeri… Continue Reading (4 minute read)

7 thoughts on “In 1987 when an SR-71 Blackbird lost an engine while flying Mach 3 over the Baltic Sea, four Swedish jets prevented it from getting shot down by the Soviets. The mission was declassified 30 years later, and the four Swedish pilots that protected the Blackbird were awarded the US Air Medal”

  1. WhirlyTwirlyMustache

    The real Cold War was the friends we made along the way. No, really.

  2. StepYaGameUp

    “There were a lot of things we couldn’t do in an SR-71…”

    You know the rest.

  3. Askmeaboutmy_Beergut

    Another fun fact:

    It leaked fuel from every part of the plane. They had to fill it up right before takeoff. This was actually part of the design. The areas that leaked closed together once the sr71 reached a certain altitude.

    https://imgur.com/a/Td6PywQ

    Bonus pic of one leaking.

  4. CIA_grade_LSD

    If it was over international waters and not Warsaw Pact airspace, what justification would there have been for the Soviets to shoot it down? Im guessing the “over international waters” bit is a fig leaf and it really had been in someone else’s airspace.

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