News / Science & Technology

Hypersonic Plane on the Drawing Board

The SR-72, as seen in this artist's conception, could fly up to six times the speed of sound. (Lockheed Martin)
The SR-72, as seen in this artist's conception, could fly up to six times the speed of sound. (Lockheed Martin)

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The successor to the world’s fastest plane is in the works, according to Lockheed Martin.

The hypersonic SR-72, when operational, could boast speeds up to Mach 6, six times the speed of sound, and double the speed of the now-retired SR-71 Blackbird, which has held the speed record since 1976.

In a statement, Lockheed Martin said the “son of Blackbird” would be so fast that “an adversary would have no time to react or hide.” The plane is likely to be unmanned.

“Hypersonic aircraft, coupled with hypersonic missiles, could penetrate denied airspace and strike at nearly any location across a continent in less than an hour,” said Brad Leland, Lockheed Martin program manager, Hypersonics. “Speed is the next aviation advancement to counter emerging threats in the next several decades.

Many of the advancements planned for the SR-72 come from the rocket-launched Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) developed by Lockheed Martin and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The HTV-2 research and development project was designed to collect data on the technical challenges of hypersonic flight: aerodynamics, aerothermal effects,  and guidance, navigation and control.

The SR-72’s design incorporates lessons learned from the HTV-2, which flew to a top speed of Mach 20, or 13,000 mph, with a surface temperature of 3500°F.

The company said the SR-72 could be operational by 2030.

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