Lockheed Martin has finally revealed “the son” of the “legendary” and “unsurpassed” Blackbird spy plane, Aviation Week reports. When experts caught sight of the SR-72, they went into an adjectival overdrive. The new hypersonic jet would be the “most exotic airplane ever constructed,” Foreign Policy says. The Washington Post’s Switch blog called the offspring a “gorgeous” boy.
What makes it so special?
- It will be a drone.
- It will be capable of Mach 6 cruise speeds. “Speed is the new stealth,” according to Al Romig, Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works engineering and advanced systems vice president. (The Blackbird, which was retired in 1998, could do a mere Mach 3. It famously flew from L.A. to D.C. in 64 minutes, 20 seconds. Take that, Ed Bolian, for a coast-to-coast record.)
- Its propulsion will combine regular turbine engines, which will get it to supersonic speeds so that the scramjet can take over. Modifying the the supersonic-combustion scramjet to adapt to a lower takeover speed was an engineering breakthrough, Brad Leland, portfolio manager for air-breathing hypersonic technologies, tells Aviation Week.
- It will have strike capability like something out of a comic book or a sci-fi movie. It will move so fast, more agile targets won’t have a chance to hide.
- It looks cool.