Nearly two decades after the famed Mach 3 SR-71 Blackbird spyplane was retired, its developer, Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works, has revealed exclusively to Aviation Week that it is ready to begin development of a hypersonic successor, the SR-72.
In a detailed report in the Nov. 4 edition of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Senior Editor Guy Norris lifts the wraps on the SR-72’s cutting-edge design, including a propulsion breakthrough that would allow the aircraft to fly twice as fast as the Blackbird -- six times the speed of sound -- but still take off from and land on a runway like a conventional aircraft. Lockheed Martin and partner Aerojet-Rocketdyne have been working in secret for seven years on the concept, which centers on integrating an off-the-shelf turbine with a scramjet to power the aircraft from standstill to Mach 6.
The hypersonic aircraft is designed for both long-range strike and reconnaissance. Conceived as a solution to the proliferation of mobile weapons platforms, which can be concealed from satellites, the jet would fly so fast that adversaries would not be able to react in time to hide a mobile target.
Norris’ article, posted on AviationWeek.com, is accompanied online by a series of graphics showing how the SR-72’s propulsion system would work compared with the SR-71’s engines.
Also posted is Aviation Week’s 1981 pilot report on the SR-71, one of many highlights in the magazine’s 97-year history.