Lockheed Martin SR-72

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The Lockheed Martin SR-72 is a conceptualized hypersonic aircraft intended for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance proposed by Lockheed Martin to succeed the long obsolete SR-71 Blackbird.


The SR-72 – proposed successor to the SR-71 Blackbird, retired in 1998, is expected to fill what is considered a coverage gap between surveillance satellites, subsonic manned aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and strike missions. With the growth of anti-satellite weapons, anti-access/area denial tactics, and counter stealth technologies, a high-speed aircraft could penetrate protected airspace and observe or strike a target before enemies could detect or intercept it. There were unconfirmed rumors about the SR-72 dating back to 2007, when various sources disclosed that Lockheed Martin was developing a Mach 6 plane for the US Air Force.

To attain such speeds, Lockheed Martin has been collaborating with Aerojet Rocketdyne since 2006 on an appropriate engine. The company is developing the system from the scramjet-powered HTV-3X, which was canceled in 2008. The SR-72 is envisioned with the ability to accelerate from stand still to Mach 6.0 using the same air-breathing hypersonic propulsion system, making it approximately twice as fast as the SR-71. Normal ramjets cannot typically operate under Mach 4.0, and turbofan engines can usually perform best up to Mach 2.2. The SR-71’s specially designed engines converted to low-speed ramjets by redirecting the airflow around the core and into the afterburner for speeds greater than Mach 2.5. The SR-72 is to use a turbine-based combined cycle (TBCC) system to use a turbine engine at low speeds and a scramjet engine at high speeds.

An optionally-piloted scaled demonstrator is planned to begin to manufacturing in 2018. The demonstrator design is about 60 ft (18 m) long, about the size of an F-22 Raptor, and is powered by one full-scale engine to fly it for several minutes at Mach 6. Flights of the demonstrator are to be conducted starting in 2023. The SR-72 flight testing follows the planned timeline for the hypersonic High Speed Strike Weapon. The SR-72 is to be of similar size as the SR-71 at over 100 ft (30 m) long and have the same range, with entry into service by 2030. The SR-72 follows the US Air Force’s hypersonic road map for developing a hypersonic strike weapon by 2020, and a penetrating ISR aircraft by 2030.

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USALockheed MartinBethesda, Marylandhttp://www.lockheedmartin.com