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    The SR-72 ‘Son of Blackbird’: Charting the Course for Hypersonic Reconnaissance’s Next Chapter

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    The SR-72 ‘Son of Blackbird’, Lockheed Martin’s anticipated hypersonic marvel. Following in the contrails of the historic SR-71 Blackbird, the SR-72 is not merely a successor but a revolutionary leap forward in aviation technology.

    With its projected debut in 2025. The SR-72 is rumored to be capable of reaching speeds over 4,000 mph and will likely use a combination of turbofan and scramjet engines.

    Even though it is no longer in service, the SR-71 “Blackbird” of the U.S. Air Force still holds several records. This reconnaissance aircraft remains the fastest ever to grace the skies worldwide. The SR-71 flew at speeds of just over Mach 3 and could operate at altitudes up to 85,000 feet. Its speed, altitude, and stealth design made it virtually unattackable. Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works, the famed division responsible for the SR-71, has been tasked with delivering its modern counterpart: the SR-72, also dubbed the ‘Darkstar’ in some circles.

    Lockheed Martin has openly discussed the design and concept of such an aircraft (but not for several years), although official details on its design, specifications, and roles are lacking. Such hypersonic speeds will, of course, require major developments in the previous engine technology. The commonly discussed propulsion system for such an aircraft is a combination of a standard turbofan jet engine (for lower speeds) and a supersonic combustion ramjet or ‘scramjet’ for hypersonic speeds.

    Chantilly VA – May 9, 2016: SR-71A Blackbird at the Udvar Hazy Museum. Developed by the Lockheed Skunk Works this spy plane operated during the Cold War, it would cruise at Mach 3+ due to its speed and altitude it outran enemy missiles.

    Brad Leland, Lockheed’s program manager, emphasized the strategic significance of hypersonic technology, stating, “Hypersonic aircraft, coupled with hypersonic missiles, could penetrate denied airspace and strike at nearly any location across a continent in less than an hour.” adding that “Speed is the next aviation advancement to counter emerging threats in the next several decades. The technology would be a game-changer in theater, similar to how stealth is changing the battlespace today.”

    A SR-71 blackbird on display at the air museum in balboa park, san diego california.

    The prospect of such an aircraft has heightened tensions in the ongoing arms race, prompting parallel developments in sixth-generation fighter and bomber programs by global superpowers.

    related images you might be interested.

    SR-71 with the Linear Aerospike SR-71 Experiment on the rear fuselage as seen from above. Original from NASA . Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.
    Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird, 64-17962, Duxford, IWM
    A NASA SR-71 successfully completed its first flight 31 October 1997 as part of the NASA/Rocketdyne/Lockheed Martin Linear Aerospike SR-71 Experiment (LASRE) at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, California. Original from NASA. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.
    A NASA SR-71 refuels with an Edwards Air Force Base KC-135 during the first flight of the NASA/Rocketdyne/ Lockheed Martin Linear Aerospike SR-71 Experiment (LASRE). Original from NASA . Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

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