The SR-71 pushed the boundaries of the modern airplane… the SR-72 shoves them right to the stratosphere
Lockheed Martin has announced that they are actively working on a successor to the lauded SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance plane that promises to completely redefine the modern interpretation of military aircraft. The SR-71 was a product of the Cold War – designed to gather incredible amounts of intelligence and information while flying high and fast. In fact, the SR-71 set air speed records nearly fifty years ago, flying at over Mach 3 (about 2,300 miles per hour) and boasting a service ceiling of 85,000 ft. The SR-71 had no armaments and was devoted to gathering intelligence and data rather than engaging in combative maneuvers.
The SR-72 promises to fill a similar niche, but Lockheed has indicated that the abilities of this aircraft will be dramatically better than the original Blackbird that debuted in 1966. The SR-72 that is in development today promises to fly at Mach 6 – that is an incredible 4,500 miles per hour. To put that in perspective, a high-velocity rifle bullet travels at approximately 1,900 miles per hour. There would be little chance to shoot down an airplane travelling at 4,500 miles per hour using conventional weapons systems. The SR-72 would most likely bypass an armament load for the ability to carry additional recon equipment and extra fuel. The SR-72 promises to be the best spy plane in existence The SR-72 will undoubtedly be constructed using a high level of titanium, composites, and other high tech materials. The structure will still be built of commonly available materials, though, as the plane must be built to a reasonable budget. Military appropriations are difficult to obtain these days, and an astronomical price tag would be a tough sell to budget-conscious lawmakers down the road.
The SR-72 will likely be developed as an unmanned aerial vehicle, as this seems to be the way of the future. It will be a massive UAV – forecasts estimate a length of over 100 feet long and a hefty curb weight. The original SR-71 was well over 100 feet long, had a 50 foot wingspan, and clocked in at 170,000 pounds fully loaded. This was a huge airplane, and the SR-72 will surely be scaled appropriately to the massive, twin scramjet engines that will power this beast to Mach 6+. Lockheed says they are looking for the first SR-72 to take to the skies in 2030, with smaller, scaled versions seeing possible flight time as much as seven years sooner. No matter when the SR-72 officially takes to the air, it promises to redefine the concept of air superiority.