Lockheed Has Plans For a Mach-6 Spy Plane
SR-72 is a possible successor to the legendary SR-71
It looks like Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works, the famed workshop that designed cutting-edge Cold War airplanes including the F-104, the U-2, the SR-71 and the F-117, has revealed to Aviation Week & Space Technology’s Guy Norris the existence of a project for a hypersonic strike aircraft— the SR-72.
After years of silence on the subject, Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works has revealed exclusively to AW&ST details of long-running plans for what it describes as an affordable hypersonic intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and strike platform that could enter development in demonstrator form as soon as 2018. Dubbed the SR-72, the twin-engine aircraft is designed for a Mach-6 cruise, around twice the speed of its forebear, and will have the optional capability to strike targets.
AvWeek reports that the SR-72 concept is based on the X-51, Falcon HTV-2 and other hypersonic development programs going back decades. The idea is to produce a strike and recon plane capable of finding and hitting fast-moving targets in highly-defended areas at intercontinental ranges.
The SR-72’s shape is consistent with the most recent hypersonic designs and it’s quite similar to at least one sketch published in April 2013 in Lockheed’s Code One magazine, in an article about the configurations studied since the early ’60s for an SR-71 replacement.
Noteworthy, the shape and top speed of the SR-72 are very different than those of Russia’s own planned next-generation bomber, the PAK-DA. An unmanned, reduced-scale SR-72 demonstrator reportedly appeared in California in July 2017.