Brad Leland: Lockheed, Aerojet Rocketdyne Collaborate on Hypersonic Spy Plane Design

Blackbird (Air Force photo)
Blackbird (Air Force photo)

Lockheed Martin plans to develop a reconnaissance plane to fly six times faster than the speed of sound and have it in the demonstration phase by 2018, Aviation Week reported Nov. 1.

Guy Norris writes the company’s Skunk Works division intends for the SR-72 to be the successor to the SR-71 Blackbird, which was retired from the U.S. Air Force nearly two decades ago.

“Skunk Works has been working with Aerojet Rocketdyne for the past seven years to develop a method to integrate an off-the-shelf turbine with a scramjet to power the aircraft from standstill to Mach 6 plus, ” Brad Leland, portfolio manager for Lockheed’s air-breathing hypersonic technologies, said to Aviation Week.

 “Our approach builds on HTV-3X, but this extends a lot beyond that and addresses the one key technical issue that remained on that program: the high-speed turbine engine, ” he added.

Norris reports the HTV-3X was a hypersonic program for the U.S. Air Force and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency that ended in 2008 without a demonstration.

DARPA intended to develop a turbojet-powered aircraft that could accelerate to Mach 6 speeds by using a scramjet and then return to land, according to the report.

Skunk Works also aims for the SR-72 to fill gaps in coverage for satellites, subsonic manned and unmanned platforms, Norris reports.

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