At the 2006
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Photo: Jocelyn Hollway

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Unveiled: the SR-72

November 1, 2013

Factory art: Lockheed-Martin SR-72


ccording to Aviation Week & Space Technology, the long anticipated successor to the SR-71 Blackbird is finally on the drawing boards. “Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works has revealed exclusively 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. Dubbed the SR-72, the twin-engine aircraft is designed for Mach 6 cruise, around twice that of the Blackbird, and will have the optional capability to strike targets.”

You hear that? The man said “Affordable!”

The SR-72 will take off with a conventional jet, then use scramjet power to reach Mach 6, about 4500 mph. At that speed this thing could be halfway around the planet in under three hours (not including slowing down for the presumed aerial refuellings); its flexibility and response time would outmatch any comparable reconnaissance system on the planet, or in orbit around it for that matter.

Note that the artwork shows no cockpit canopy. Either the pilot sits in a windowless, virtual cockpit, or the plane is unmanned—a hypersonic drone. The fact that it’s also referred to as a “strike platform” makes it even more of a geek fantasy than the Blackbird, which was unarmed.

Couple this with news that DARPA handed out contracts Monday to Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin to develop air-portable laser gunpods, supposedly to shoot down enemy missiles. Yeah, right. Does anybody really think ICBMs or even intermediate-range missiles are the main threat today? It’s terrorism, folks! Put a laser on this thing and we won’t have to Hellfire half a village of human shields to do to one specific bad guy what Jinx did to Mr. Kill. Holy airborne terminators, Batman!