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Report: The SR-71 Blackbird’s Ultra-Secret Successor May Scream Across The Sky Sooner Than Expected
The successor to Lockheed Martin’s SR-71 Blackbird, the Mach 3 long-range recon aircraft that once tore across the skies like a Cold-War era arrowhead before its retirement in 1999, may be inching closer toward reality.
According to Aviation Week, a handful of visitors to the SAE International Aerotech Congress and Exhibition at Fort Worth, Texas, this week reported catching glimpses of a “demonstrator vehicle” believed to be linked to the proposed replacement: the SR-72.
Though the SR-72’s development is (understandably) a tightly-kept secret, Aviation Week reports that: In the early hours of July, an “unmanned subscale aircraft” was seen flying into the Air Force’s Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, where Lockheed Martin’s legendary Skunk Works division is headquartered.
With an “optionally piloted” flight research vehicle test slated for 2018 by Lockheed back in June, and a test flight anticipated to occur by 2020, the presence of the demonstrator at Palmdale seems to indicate that the SR-72’s progress is in line with Lockheed Martin’s timeline.
“Although I can’t go into specifics, let us just say the Skunk Works team in Palmdale, California, is doubling down on our commitment to speed,” Orlando Carvalho, the executive vice president of aeronautics at Lockheed Martin, said at the exhibition, which ran from Sept. 26 to 28. “Simply put, I believe the United States is on the verge of a hypersonics revolution.”
Lockheed Martin has remained tight-lipped on the SR-72 program since announcing the Blackbird successor in 2013, but the aerospace giant wants to up the ante in terms of speed. And that’s saying something: the Blackbird as it's known is not only faster than any other jet-propelled aircraft — it can literally outrun missiles.
“Speed matters, especially when it comes to national security,” as Carvalho put it.
If the recent sightings in Palmdale are tied to the Blackbird’s replacement, then the aircraft really is fast — and not just on the flight line. While still under development at Skunk Works, the proposed reconnaissance plane is expected to hit Mach 6 thanks to advanced new hypersonic tech.
“Hypersonics is like stealth. It is a disruptive technology and will enable various platforms to operate at two to three times the speed of the Blackbird,” Carvalho told Aviation Week. “Operational survivability and lethality is the ultimate deterrent. Security classification guidance will only allow us to say the speed is greater than Mach 5.”
A U.S. Air Force Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird from the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing near Beale Air Force Base, California, 1988.Photo via DoD/Wikimedia Commons
The proposed hypersonic aircraft could fill a space left by the SR-71, which was retired in 1999 due to the proliferation of spy satellites, enemy air defenses, and ultimately, its exorbitant costs — roughly $200,000 per hour of operation, reports the National Interest. Unlike its predecessor, the SR-72 is being designed with strike capability in mind — which means it’s not just a super speedy spy plane: It can reach out and
touch obliterate a target, then zip back the way it came.
Carvalho’s comments, while not explicitly linked to the SR-72, mirrored sentiments expressed by Rob Weiss, executive vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs organization, during the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics forum in Denver, Colorado in June.
“We’ve been saying hypersonics is two years away for the last 20 years,” said Weiss. “But all I can say is the technology is mature and we, along with DARPA and the services, are working hard to get that capability into the hands of our warfighters as soon as possible.”
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — As many as 380 Americans on the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan – which has nearly 300 passengers who have tested positive for the deadly coronavirus, now known as COVID-19 – will be extracted Sunday from Yokohama and flown to Travis Air Force Base near Fairfield and a Texas base for further quarantine.
The Army wants more soldiers, and it's using esports to put a 'finger on the pulse' of potential recruits
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
After whiffing on its recruiting goal in 2018, the Army has been trying new approaches to bring in the soldiers it needs to reach its goal of 500,000 in active-duty service by the end of the 2020s.
The 6,500-soldier shortfall the service reported in September 2018 was its first recruiting miss since 2005 and came despite it putting $200 million into bonuses and issuing extra waivers for health issues or bad conduct.
Within a few months of that disappointment, the Army announced it was seeking soldiers for an esports team that would, it said, "build awareness of skills that can be used as professional soldiers and use [its] gaming knowledge to be more relatable to youth."
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A New Mexico Army National Guard soldier from Mountainair, who served as a police officer and volunteer firefighter in the town, died Thursday from a non-combat related incident while deployed in Africa, according to the Department of Defense.
A news release states Pfc. Walter Lewark, 26, died at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti where he was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in the Horn of Africa.
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is requesting about as much money for overseas operations in the coming fiscal year as in this one, but there is at least one noteworthy new twist: the first-ever Space Force request for war funds.
Officials say the $77 million request is needed by Oct. 1 not for space warfare but to enable military personnel to keep operating and protecting key satellites.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors on Thursday accused Huawei of stealing trade secrets and helping Iran track protesters in its latest indictment against the Chinese company, escalating the U.S. battle with the world's largest telecommunications equipment maker.
In the indictment, which supersedes one unsealed last year in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, Huawei Technologies Co was charged with conspiring to steal trade secrets from six U.S. technology companies and to violate a racketeering law typically used to combat organized crime.