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.
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 ]