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.