Lockheed’s Skunkworks: The Future is Now


According to a recent article that appears in the June issue of Popular Science, the folks at the legendary Lockheed Skunkworks are at it again.

“With regional threats growing and portable surface-to-air missiles evolving, engineers have once again set out to build the fastest military jet on the planet.

This time, it will take the form of a 4,000-mile-per-hour reconnaissance drone with strike capability. Known as the SR-72, the aircraft will evade assault, take spy photos, and attack targets at speeds of up to Mach 6. That’s twice as fast as its predecessor.

Aeronautical engineers at Lockheed Martin and Aerojet Rocket­dyne have been designing the SR-72 at their Skunk Works black site in California for the past several years. It will require a hybrid propulsion system: a conventional, off-the-shelf turbo jet that can take the plane from runway to Mach 3, and a hypersonic ramjet/scramjet that will push it the rest of the way. Its body will have to withstand the extreme heat of hypersonic flight, when air friction alone could melt steel. Its bombs will have to hit targets from possibly 80,000 feet. Lockheed says the craft could be deployed by 2030. Once it is, the plane’s ability to cover one mile per second means it could reach any location on any continent in an hour—not that you’ll see it coming.”

Several on-board systems will need to be redeveloped for such a reconnaissance and weapons platform to work at a speed of Mach 6, chief among them targeting, high altitude bombing, piloting, and stability at a high friction rate of speed. Frankly, if anyone can do it, its the boys at Lockheed, who are responsible for creating some of the most sophisticated aircraft ever to take to the sky.

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