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First employed in the Far East over North Vietnam and North Korea, American military intelligence quickly realized the SR-71 'Blackbird's' potential value over European targets. In 1976, SR-71 Detachment 4 commenced operations from the RAF base at Middenhall in the UK. Its mission was to monitor Warsaw Pact troop movements along the Iron Curtain and photograph the various ports that were home to the Soviet Union's nuclear submarine fleet. Despite the best efforts of the USSR, they were never able to intercept a 'Blackbird' in flight.
During his time as an air traffic controller at the London Air Traffic Control Centre, Paul Crickmore gained a unique introduction into SR-71 operations from RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk. He teamed up with Osprey to produced the first detailed book ever to be published on the subject. When additional information became available to him in 1990 following the initial shut down of SR-71 operations, Crickmore produced an even more detailed book, Lockheed SR-71 The Secret Missions Exposed - the standard reference work on the subject. The work was acclaimed by both the aviation press, Ben Rich (late president of the Skunk Works) and the crews that flew the SR-71. He is also the author of the first detailed book about the F-117 written in partnership with his wife Alison, published by Motorbooks International in 1999.