Lockheed Advanced Development expects to receive the first of three SR-71s by the end of February for maintenance work before the aircraft re-enters the US Air Force inventory.

The US Congress ordered the Pentagon to re-activate three SR-71s and it earmarked $100 million in fiscal year 1995 to restore the supersonic reconnaissance aircraft to active US military service.

The new schedule follows the failed attempt to have an SR-71 flying on 22 December, the 30th anniversary of the Mach 3 reconnaissance aircraft's first flight.

Plans also call for the first re-activated SR-71 Blackbird to be operational in April or May. Two more Pratt & Whitney J58-powered SR-71s would be flying within six months.

It is believed that the USAF's SR-71 fleet will consist of two SR-71As taken out of storage and one SR-71A at the Dryden research-and-development centre.

The USAF has 26 J58 replacement engines and $700 million in aircraft spares, to keep the aircraft serviceable. The home base is expected to be Edwards AFB, California, but Palmdale AFB, and Beale AFB, California, are also candidates.

Source: Flight International