Lockheed's Skunk Works Unveils Plans for a Mach 6 SR-72

  • Nov 2, 2013 8:52am GMT

Lockheed Martin shocked the aviation industry this week as they announced plans for a follow-on to their SR-71 Blackbird, the legendary Mach 3 spy plane that to this day still holds the world speed record for an aircraft that was set back in 1976. The new aircraft is called SR-72.

Aviation Week broke the story about Lockheed's plans to develop a demonstrator and vision vehicle capable of speeds up to Mach 6. The core of their design revolves around a concept called TBCC - turbine based combined cycle. This dual mode, two-part propulsion system allows the aircraft to take off and land under traditional turbojet power then transition to a ramjet/scramjet for high speed operations.

Lockheed's famed Skunk Works division is developing the SR-72 project and Aerojet Rocketdyne has been selected as the propulsion provider for the hypersonic vehicle.

The aircraft is envisioned to fill an emerging need as an ISR platform (Intelligence, Strike & Reconnaissance) where speed, not stealth, is the competitive advantage. Al Romig, Skunkworks engineering and advanced systems vice president remarked, "Speed is the new stealth."

Lockheed reports that the demonstrator would be flying by 2023 and the operational aircraft by 2030. While the artist rendering shows no signs of a visible cockpit, Lockheed claims the vehicle will have the option for a pilot onboard.

Image credit Lockheed Martin