SR-72: Faster, more lethal spyplane

Lockheed engineers are <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/05/tech/innovation/new-spy-plane/index.html'>developing a hypersonic aircraft</a> that will go twice the speed of the SR-71 Blackbird, which goes three times the speed of sound. That aircraft, seen in this photo illustration, is called the SR-72 or "Son of Blackbird." Take a look through the gallery to see other stealth and spy planes.Lockheed engineers are developing a hypersonic aircraft that will go twice the speed of the SR-71 Blackbird, which goes three times the speed of sound. That aircraft, seen in this photo illustration, is called the SR-72 or “Son of Blackbird.” Take a look through the gallery to see other stealth and spy planes.
An SR-71B Blackbird flies over snow-capped mountains in 1995. An SR-71B Blackbird flies over snow-capped mountains in 1995.
An A-12 reconnaissance aircraft, the predecessor to the SR-71, is seen on display at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City in August 2010.An A-12 reconnaissance aircraft, the predecessor to the SR-71, is seen on display at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City in August 2010.
The EP-3E Aries II aircraft is a reconnaissance aircraft that uses electronic surveillance equipment for its primary mission. One of them was in the news in April 2001 when it collided with a Chinese jet.The EP-3E Aries II aircraft is a reconnaissance aircraft that uses electronic surveillance equipment for its primary mission. One of them was in the news in April 2001 when it collided with a Chinese jet.
The F-117 Nighthawk is one of the most famous and successful stealth aircraft. It was the first plane to be completely designed around the aspect of stealth, and its development was kept a secret in the early 1980s.The F-117 Nighthawk is one of the most famous and successful stealth aircraft. It was the first plane to be completely designed around the aspect of stealth, and its development was kept a secret in the early 1980s.
Lockheed's "Have Blue" prototype was the predecessor of the famed Nighthawk.Lockheed’s “Have Blue” prototype was the predecessor of the famed Nighthawk.
The Northrop YB-49 was not considered stealth aircraft, but its "strategic bomber" design set the foundation for the B-2 Spirit, a future stealth bomber.The Northrop YB-49 was not considered stealth aircraft, but its “strategic bomber” design set the foundation for the B-2 Spirit, a future stealth bomber.
A B-2 Spirit soars over the Pacific Ocean in May 2006.A B-2 Spirit soars over the Pacific Ocean in May 2006.
The Lockheed YF-12 flies a test mission near Edwards Air Force Base in California.The Lockheed YF-12 flies a test mission near Edwards Air Force Base in California.
The YF-22A fighter, first produced in 1990, used stealth technology and became the first fighter-type aircraft to achieve sustained supersonic flight without employing afterburner.The YF-22A fighter, first produced in 1990, used stealth technology and became the first fighter-type aircraft to achieve sustained supersonic flight without employing afterburner.
The F-22 Raptor interceptor, which uses stealth technology, completed its first successful flight in 1997.The F-22 Raptor interceptor, which uses stealth technology, completed its first successful flight in 1997.
The MQ-1 Predator is an unmanned aircraft, or drone, that has conducted reconnaissance and surveillance missions.The MQ-1 Predator is an unmanned aircraft, or drone, that has conducted reconnaissance and surveillance missions.
In the 1950s, aircraft like these RB-47s conducted surveillance missions over the Soviet Union and other "denied areas," but they became increasingly vulnerable to enemy defenses.In the 1950s, aircraft like these RB-47s conducted surveillance missions over the Soviet Union and other “denied areas,” but they became increasingly vulnerable to enemy defenses.
The Convair RB-36D was the jet-augumented version of the U.S. Air Force's intercontinental strategic bomber. The bomb bay was fitted with 14 cameras, and the No. 2 bay was used to carry 100-pound photo flash bombs for nighttime aerial photography. The Convair RB-36D was the jet-augumented version of the U.S. Air Force’s intercontinental strategic bomber. The bomb bay was fitted with 14 cameras, and the No. 2 bay was used to carry 100-pound photo flash bombs for nighttime aerial photography.
The U-2 high flying spy plane, developed by Lockheed, was considered stealthy because of its ability to fly at extremely high altitudes. But the Soviet Union's defense radar was still able to detect the aircraft.The U-2 high flying spy plane, developed by Lockheed, was considered stealthy because of its ability to fly at extremely high altitudes. But the Soviet Union’s defense radar was still able to detect the aircraft.
CIA pilots stand in pressure suits in front of a U-2 plane. The pilots needed the pressure suits for the extremely high altitudes.CIA pilots stand in pressure suits in front of a U-2 plane. The pilots needed the pressure suits for the extremely high altitudes.

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  • SR-72 could fly six times the speed of sound
  • “Son of Blackbird” would be a drone, be able to launch missiles
  • Aircraft could be operational by 2030, Lockheed Martin says

(CNN) — For a big chunk of the Cold War, the U.S. Air Force turned to the SR-71 Blackbird for many of its most important spy missions. The jet-black jet could fly at more than three times the speed of sound at altitudes of 85,000 feet, faster and higher than anything adversaries had to counter it.

The last of the Blackbirds flew in 1999, and the U.S. military hasn’t had anything close since.

Now, Lockheed-Martin, the maker of the SR-71, says the “Son of the Blackbird,” the SR-72, is in the works, and it will be twice as fast as and way more lethal than its father. That’s because the SR-72 will be designed to launch missiles, something the SR-71 didn’t do.

“Even with the SR-71, at Mach 3, there was still time to notify that the plane was coming, but at Mach 6, there is no reaction time to hide a mobile target,” Brad Leland, Lockheed Martin’s program manager for hypersonics, told Aviation Week and Space Technology. The publication provided the first detailed look at the SR-72 plans last week.

Navy launches new stealth destroyer

The USS Zumwalt, the U.S. Navy's newest warship, floats out of dry dock Monday, October 28, in Bath, Maine. The first of the new DDG-1000 class of destroyers, it will be the Navy's largest stealthy ship when it begins missions.The USS Zumwalt, the U.S. Navy’s newest warship, floats out of dry dock Monday, October 28, in Bath, Maine. The first of the new DDG-1000 class of destroyers, it will be the Navy’s largest stealthy ship when it begins missions.
The DDG-1000 is longer and faster than its predecessors, and it will carry state-of-the-art weapons that can destroy targets more than 60 miles away, according to the Navy. The DDG-1000 is longer and faster than its predecessors, and it will carry state-of-the-art weapons that can destroy targets more than 60 miles away, according to the Navy.
The Zumwalt is 610 feet long and 81 feet wide. It weighs about half as much as the USS Arizona, which sunk at Pearl Harbor in 1941.The Zumwalt is 610 feet long and 81 feet wide. It weighs about half as much as the USS Arizona, which sunk at Pearl Harbor in 1941.
The ship is named in honor of Adm. Elmo R. "Bud" Zumwalt Jr., who was chief of naval operations from 1970-1974. The ship is named in honor of Adm. Elmo R. “Bud” Zumwalt Jr., who was chief of naval operations from 1970-1974.
Capt. James A. Kirk, the executive assistant to the director of surface warfare, will be the commanding officer of the USS Zumwalt. Capt. James A. Kirk, the executive assistant to the director of surface warfare, will be the commanding officer of the USS Zumwalt.
Much of the ship's superstructure is wrapped in a canopy made of lightweight carbon-fiber composite. The ship is also built on angles so that it is 50 times harder to spot on radar than an ordinary destroyer.Much of the ship’s superstructure is wrapped in a canopy made of lightweight carbon-fiber composite. The ship is also built on angles so that it is 50 times harder to spot on radar than an ordinary destroyer.
Coming out of dry dock does not mean the ship is ready to put to sea. The shipbuilder will now begin installing weapons. The Zumwalt will be equipped with a new missile-launching system capable of firing 80 missiles, including Tomahawk cruise missiles and Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missiles. Coming out of dry dock does not mean the ship is ready to put to sea. The shipbuilder will now begin installing weapons. The Zumwalt will be equipped with a new missile-launching system capable of firing 80 missiles, including Tomahawk cruise missiles and Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missiles.
The Navy had planned to spend up to $20 billion to design and deliver seven DDG-1000 destroyers. But cost overruns cut production to three ships.The Navy had planned to spend up to $20 billion to design and deliver seven DDG-1000 destroyers. But cost overruns cut production to three ships.
U.S. Navy’s new stealth destroyer
U.S. Navy’s new stealth destroyer
U.S. Navy’s new stealth destroyer
U.S. Navy’s new stealth destroyer
U.S. Navy’s new stealth destroyer
U.S. Navy’s new stealth destroyer
U.S. Navy’s new stealth destroyer
U.S. Navy’s new stealth destroyer
Photos: U.S. Navy\'s new stealth destroyerPhotos: U.S. Navy’s new stealth destroyer

“Hypersonic aircraft, coupled with hypersonic missiles, could penetrate denied airspace and strike at nearly any location across a continent in less than an hour,” Leland said in a news release.

And, by the way, the SR-72 is envisioned as a drone, unlike the original Blackbird with its crew of two: a pilot and a reconnaissance officer to operate its radar jammers and spy gear.

“The SR-71 was developed using 20th-century technology. It was envisioned with slide rules and paper. It wasn’t managed by millions of lines of software code. And it wasn’t powered by computer chips. All that changes with the SR-72,” Lockheed Martin says.

CNN Explains: Drones

A smaller-scale model of the SR-72 could begin testing in five years and be in the air in 10, Leland told Aviation Week.

The full-scale SR-72 could be operational by 2030, according to Lockheed Martin.

If it comes to fruition, one thing the SR-72 won’t be is stealthy. The design needed for the Mach 6 speed doesn’t allow for such construction, according to the Aviation Week report.

“Speed is the new stealth,” Aviation Week quoted Al Romig, engineering and advanced systems vice president at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works division, as saying.

“Speed is the next aviation advancement to counter emerging threats in the next several decades. The technology would be a game-changer in theater, similar to how stealth is changing the battle space today,” Leland said in the statement.

Of course, none of this will fly without money, and that will probably be up to taxpayers.

“We have been continuing to invest company funds, and we are kind of at a point where the next steps would require large-scale testing, which would significantly increase the level of investment we’ve had to make to-date,” Leland told Aviation Week. “Between DARPA (Defense Advanced Products Research Agency) and the Air Force, it would be highly likely they’d have to fund the next steps.”