November 2, 2013. David Pugliese Defence Watch
Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works has revealed to AW&ST details of long-running plans for what it describes as an affordable hypersonic intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and strike platform that could enter development in demonstrator form as soon as 2018.
More from AW&ST
“Dubbed the SR-72, the twin-engine aircraft is designed for a Mach 6 cruise, around twice the speed of its forebear, and will have the optional capability to strike targets.
A vehicle penetrating at high altitude and Mach 6, a speed viewed by Lockheed Martin as the “sweet spot” for practical air-breathing hypersonics, is expected to survive where even stealthy, advanced subsonic or supersonic aircraft and unmanned vehicles might not. Moreover, an armed ISR platform would also have the ability to strike targets before they could hide.
“The 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,” says Brad Leland, portfolio manager for air-breathing hypersonic technologies. “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 adds, referring to the U.S. Air Force/Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) reusable hypersonic demonstrator canceled in 2008.: