SR-72 hypersonic revolution

“We are on the verge of a hypersonic revolution,” said Brad Leland, Hypersonic Program Manager at Lockheed Martin. This can only mean one thing – work on the SR-72, the successor to the beautiful and iconic SR-71 BlackBird, is going according to plan.

SR-72 hypersonic revolution

SR-72 hypersonic revolution

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The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird is the most famous reconnaissance aircraft. It was developed in the 1950s and 1960s under contract to the CIA. And although it was withdrawn from service in 1999, due to its uncompromising and beautiful design it still arouses great excitement among aviation enthusiasts. No less impressive was its performance, namely the maximum speed of over 3500 km/h.

After the machine was withdrawn from service, many people asked themselves a question: will the Americans undertake to build its successor? Now it turns out that yes. The main stakeholder is none other than the famous Skunk Works, the Advanced Development Programs division of Lockheed Martin. It is the one responsible for many high-profile projects, including the F-117 and the SR-71 BlackBird.

The PopSci website reports that development of the Sr-72 has been underway for several years. It is known that it will be unmanned, hybrid, and armed, which is something it does not resemble its predecessor.

The new spy-strike aircraft is expected to travel at a speed of 7500 km/h, which is a huge challenge for the designers. The most important thing, of course, will be the hybrid propulsion system. The basic unit will be a turbojet engine that will accelerate the SR-72 to 3 Ma. Above that speed (up to 5 Ma) the ramjet engine will be engaged, but maximum performance will be possible thanks to a third propulsion source – the scramjet engine – you can read more about it here.

However, the drive is not everything. It will be necessary to develop a special skin resistant to extreme temperatures, because at the speed of 5 Ma the external part of the machine will heat up to a temperature of over 2 thousand degrees Celsius. In this case, technologies used in the space industry will prove invaluable. Another challenge is the durability of the airframe, which will have to endure extreme speeds.

The Americans want the new spy machine to be able to attack ground targets, which seems obvious since it can reach any location on any continent within an hour. It won’t be easy, however, and the appropriate weaponry hasn’t been developed yet.

Lockheed Martin engineers still have a lot of work to do, but it is already clear that the SR-72 is expected to be ready by 2030.

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