Successor to record-setting SR-71 Blackbird spy plane revealed, capable of Mach 6 speeds

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The SR-72 will be the first hypersonic aircraft to enter service, capable of blisteringly fast speeds of up to Mach 6.

Nearly half a century after the introduction of the SR-71 Blackbird, Lockheed Martin has finally unveiled the record setting spy plane’s successor, the SR-72.

The SR-72 will be nearly the same size as the Blackbird, but capable of flying twice as fast, streaking across the sky at a blisteringly fast cruising speed of Mach 6. While the legendary SR-71 could only reach Mach 3, after having been around for nearly 50 years it still holds several speed records, including a flight from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. in an astonishing 64 minutes, 20 seconds, the SR-71, Wired reported.

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Unfortunately, the aircraft won’t be around for some time, with the earliest projected date for it to enter service being 2030.

If the SR-72 is actually produced, it will be the first hypersonic aircraft to enter service, fulfilling the U.S. Air Force’s plans to have a plane that permits fast reactions for intelligence gathering around the globe. Though not intended to be a fighter, the aircraft may have optional strike capabilities.

The source of power beneath the new SR-72 will be a turbine-based combined cycle (TBCC), utilizing the turbine engine to get the plane supersonic before engaging the scramjet engine – which funnels air into a carefully formed inlet, compressing and feeding it to the engine.

Unfortunately, the SR-72 won’t be around for some time, but Lockheed Martin says they may have a scaled demonstrator roughly the size of an F-22 Raptor as early as 2023. But for the full-sized SR-72, 2030 is the earliest projected time frame for the new hypersonic aircraft to enter service.

[ Wired ]