Mach 6-capable spy plane could fly as early as 2018
SR-72, Lockheed's new hypersonic plane hailed as 'Son of Blackbird'
A new super spy plane, capable of flying at Mach-6 speeds, three times as fast as current spy planes could soon take to the skies as early as 2018. Lockheed Martin Corp has unveiled plans for a hypersonic spy plane SR-72, being heralded as the "son of Blackbird," i.e. plane SR-71.
The SR-72, was designed using off-the-shelf materials to keep it affordable in "the current tough budget environment," Leland said in an interview. "Your adversaries cannot hide or move their critical assets. They will be found. That becomes a game-changer."
Traveling three times as fast as current fighter jets, which can reach speeds of Mach 2, twice the speed of sound, the plane could be outfitted with light weapons to strike targets.
In a cover article entitled "Son of Blackbird," Aviation Week reported Lockheed's work on the project prior to the unveiling last week. Lockheed developed the supersonic SR-71 Blackbird, a long-range manned spy plane, 50 years ago. Some of those planes remained in service until 1999.
Details of the new hypersonic spy plane project emerged days after Lockheed, the Pentagon's biggest supplier, teamed up with No. 2 supplier Boeing Co to develop a bid for the Pentagon's new long-range bomber.
Weapons makers are pressing the Pentagon to continue funding new aircraft development programs in spite of big cuts in military spending, arguing that a retreat from such projects could undercut U.S. military superiority in years to come.
Lockheed has declined to say how much it had invested in the SR-72 project to date. Lockheed has also declined to say what the new airplane might cost if it's built. But it said it had tried to keep the current tight budget environment in mind while working on the project.
"What we are doing is defining a missile that would have a small incremental cost to go at hypersonic speed," Leland said. He said about 20 Lockheed employees had worked on the project.
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