Which aircraft do you think is the best ever and why? Can be from any era. Doesnt have to compare to todays aircrafts. Maybe they were trend setters in their era and they dont necessarily have to be fighters/bombers. According to me its the SR-71 Blackbird. Made in the 1950s and early 60s it was truly a technological marvel. The Lockheed SR-71 was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3 strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft by the Lockheed Skunk Works as a Black Project. The SR-71 was unofficially named the Blackbird, and called the Habu by its crews, in reference to a snake. Clarence "Kelly" Johnson was responsible for many of the design's innovative concepts. A defensive feature of the aircraft was its high speed and operating altitude, whereby, if a surface-to-air missile launch were detected, standard evasive action was simply to accelerate. The SR-71 line was in service from 1964 to 1998, with 12 of the 32 aircraft being destroyed in accidents, though none were lost to enemy action. A particularly difficult issue with flight at over Mach 3 is the high temperatures generated. As an aircraft moves through the air, the air in front of the aircraft compresses and this heats the air, and the heat conducts into the aircraft's airframe. To help with this, high temperature materials were needed and the airframe was substantially made of titanium, obtained from the USSR, at the height of the Cold War. Lockheed used many guises to prevent the Soviet government knowing what the titanium was to be used for. In order to control costs, Lockheed used a more easily-worked alloy of titanium which softened at a lower temperature. Finished aircraft were painted a dark blue (almost black) to increase the emission of internal heat (since fuel was used as a heat sink for avionics cooling) and to act as camouflage against the sky.The aircraft was designed to minimize its radar cross-section, an early attempt at stealth design. The air inlets were a critical design feature to allow cruising speeds of over Mach 3.2, yet provide subsonic Mach 0.5 airflow into the turbojet engines. At the front of each inlet was a sharp, pointed movable cone called a "spike" that was locked in the full forward position on the ground or when in subsonic flight. During acceleration to high-speed cruise, the spike would unlock at Mach 1.6 and then begin a mechanical (internal jackscrew powered) travel to the rear.It moved up to a maximum of 26 inches (66 cm). The original air inlet computer was an analog design which, based on pitot-static, pitch, roll, yaw, and angle-of-attack inputs, would determine how much movement was required. By moving, the spike tip would withdraw the shock wave, riding on it closer to the inlet cowling until it just touched slightly inside the cowling lip. In this position shock-wave spillage, causing turbulence over the outer nacelle and wing, was minimized while the spike shock-wave then repeatedly reflected between the spike centerbody and the inlet inner cowl sides. In doing so, shock pressures were maintained while slowing the air until a Mach 1 shock wave formed in front of the engine compressor. The backside of this "normal" shock wave was subsonic air for ingestion into the engine compressor. This capture of the Mach 1 shock wave within the inlet was called "Starting the Inlet". Tremendous pressures would be built up inside the inlet and in front of the compressor face. Bleed tubes and bypass doors were designed into the inlet and engine nacelles to handle some of this pressure and to position the final shock to allow the inlet to remain "started." It is commonly cited that a large amount of the thrust at higher mach numbers comes from the inlet. However, this is not entirely accurate. Air that is compressed by the inlet/shockwave interaction is diverted around the turbo machinery of the engine and directly into the afterburner where it is mixed and burned. This configuration is essentially a ramjet and provides up to 70% of the aircraft's thrust at higher mach numbers. Ben Rich, the Lockheed Skunkworks designer of the inlets, often referred to the engine compressors as "pumps to keep the inlets alive" and sized the inlets for Mach 3.2 cruise (where the aircraft was at its most efficient design point).The additional "thrust" refers to the reduction of engine energy required to compress the airflow. One unique characteristic of the SR-71 is that the faster it went, the more fuel-efficient it was in terms of pounds burned per nautical mile traveled. An incident related by Brian Shul, author of Sled Driver: Flying the World's Fastest Jet, was that on one reconnaissance run he was fired upon several times. In accordance with procedure they accelerated and maintained the higher than normal velocity for some time; afterwards they discovered that this had reduced their fuel consumption. In the early years of the Blackbird programs the analog air inlet computers would not always keep up with rapidly-changing flight environmental inputs. If internal pressures became too great and the spike was incorrectly positioned the shock wave would suddenly blow out the front of the inlet, called an "Inlet Unstart." The flow of air through the engine compressor would immediately stop, thrust would drop, and exhaust gas temperatures would begin to rise. Due to the tremendous thrust of the remaining engine pushing the aircraft asymmetrically an unstart would cause the aircraft to yaw violently to one side. SAS, autopilot, and manual control inputs would fight the yawing, but often the extreme off-angle would reduce airflow in the opposite engine and cause it to begin "sympathetic stalls." The result would be rapid counter-yawing, often loud "banging" noises and a rough ride. The crews' pressure-suit helmets would sometimes bang on the cockpit canopies until the initial unstart motions subsided. One of the standard counters to an inlet unstart was for the pilot to reach out and unstart both inlets; this drove both spikes out, stopped the yawing conditions and allowed the pilot to restart each inlet. Once restarted, with normal engine combustion, the plane could accelerate and climb to the planned cruise altitude.The analog air inlet computer was later replaced by a digital one. Lockheed engineers developed control software for the engine inlets that would recapture the lost shock wave and re-light the engine before the pilot was even aware an unstart had occurred. The SR-71 machinists were responsible for the hundreds of precision adjustments of the forward air by-pass doors within the inlets. This helped control the shock wave, prevent unstarts, and increase performance. There were a number of features in the SR-71 that were designed to reduce its radar signature. The first studies in radar stealth technology seemed to indicate that a shape with flattened, tapering sides would avoid reflecting most radar energy toward the radar beams' place of origin. To this end, the radar engineers suggested adding chines (see below) to the design and canting the vertical control surfaces inward. The plane also used special radar-absorbing materials which were incorporated into sawtooth shaped sections of the skin of the aircraft, as well as cesium-based fuel additives to reduce the exhaust plumes' visibility on radar. The overall effectiveness of these designs is still debated; Ben Rich's team could show that the radar return was, in fact, reduced, but Kelly Johnson later conceded that Russian radar technology was advancing faster than the "anti-radar" technology Lockheed was using to counter it.The SR-71 made its debut years before Pyotr Ya. Ufimtsev's ground-breaking research made possible today's stealth technologies, and, despite Lockheed's best efforts, the SR-71 was still easy to track by radar and had a huge infrared signature when cruising at Mach 3.2 or more. It was visible on air traffic control radar for hundreds of miles, even when not using its transponder.SR-71s were evidently detected by radar, as missiles were often fired at them. In the end, the SR-71's greatest protection was its flight characteristics, which made it almost invulnerable to the attack technologies of the time; over the course of its service life, not one was shot down, despite over 4,000 attempts to do so. All this and more in the 1950s. I dont think many will be able to make this one even today.