November 8, 2013
Here Comes The SR-72
I liked jets when I was a kid. What kid didn’t? Though not as into them as I was, I still keep track of the various models out there and what new ones come unveiled. From the classic F-15 Eagle to the advanced, sleek, and highly deadly F-22 Raptor, I love jets. However, there was always one that stood out among all others to me as the absolute pinnacle of incredible; the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. While this was a reconnaissance/spy craft, not a fighter, that did not matter to me. The Blackbird was simply amazing. Able to fly at Mach 3.3, or 2,193.2 miles per hour, and reach altitudes of more than 85,000 feet, the SR-71 was the star of its time. Retired from active service in 1999, this incredible plane has always had a place in my imagination and remains my all-time favorite aircraft.
The fact that the jet used by the X-Men in comics, cartoons, and in the more recent movies was based on the design of the SR-71 did not hurt that either, because, as I have mentioned before, I do love me some X-Men.
Revealed this past Friday during Aviation Week, Lockheed Martin gave the world a glimpse at the successor to the fabled Blackbird. Enter the Lockheed Martin SR-72. While a spy drone rather than a full-fledged jet like the SR-71, the SR-72 is said to be able to blow the SR-71’s speed records completely out of the water (or out of the sky, as is more appropriate) said to be able to fly at speeds of up to Mach 6, nearly twice that of the original, record setting Blackbird. The military hopes to use this incredible new spy drone to fill the gap left in its reconnaissance gathering capabilities left by the SR-71. While currently operational spy drones and satellites have sufficed, they lack the sheer speed and range of possible altitudes available with the SR-72. In addition, like the popular Predator drone, there are plans to arm the SR-72 so that it is not only a reconnaissance craft, but can also be used for quick, decisive aerial assaults. According to Brad Leland, portfolio manager for air-breathing hypersonic technologies, “What we are doing is defining a missile that would have a small incremental cost to go at hypersonic speed. Hypersonic is the new stealth. Your adversaries cannot hide or move their critical assets. They will be found. That becomes a game-changer.”
Until now, the cost of trying to replicate and improve on the design of the original Blackbird has been what has held back production on such a project as this, but thanks to new innovations in the field, that is no longer an issue. It is unknown when the SR-72 will actually see deployment, but I for one am glad to hear that, once again, we have a Lockheed SR-flying through the skies. Drone or not, that is truly awesome.
Image Credit: Lockheed Martin