Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works reveals a Mach 6 strike successor of SR-71 Blackbird dubbed SR-72

It looks like Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works, the legendary division that designed airplanes which represented a giant leap for their times such as the F-104, the U-2, the Blackbird family or the F-117A stealth fighter jet, has eventually revelead to AW&ST’s Guy Norris the existence of a project for an Hypersonic strike aircraft dubbed SR-72.

“After years of silence on the subject, 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 a Mach 6 cruise, around twice the speed of its forebear, and will have the optional capability to strike targets.”

AW&ST has the detailed story of the new platform, that guided by the X-51, Falcon HTV-2 and other hypersonic development programs on which U.S.’s perspective strike capability is being tailored, will be capable to hit or perform ISR of fast-moving targets, located in high-lethality areas at intercontinental ranges.

Interestingly, a Lockheed SR-72 concept image was released. The shape is coherent with the most recent hypersonic designs and it is quite similar to at least one of those published in April 2013 on LM’s Code One article about the configurations studied since the early ’60s for an SR-71 Blackbird replacement.

Noteworthy, the shape and operational speed of the U.S. next generation strike bomber is much different from Russia’s next generation stealth strategic bomber PAK-DA concept.

SR-72 new

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

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About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


    • Why would it have to be Stealthy? at Mach 6, nothing is going to catch it. By the time they see it, it’s gone again.

      • Lasers are the only reasonable weapon I see that could counter this as an ISR asset. However, you’d have to know it’s coming and have the laser on target as soon as It’s within range as it’ll quickly be out of range before you can “cook” any of it.

        • Agreed… + at Mach 6 it will be plenty hot on it’s own, it will need heat resistant outer skin either way.

        • Actually the Chinese are working on particle beam and plasma beam tech. And they are spending hundreds of billions on advanced research while we are now spending money on “muslim outreach and diversity” programs.

          • Yea we need to quit Building Roads & Bridges in Afghanistan & Start spending that money back in the States. Building weapons & Designing new ones for the future creates Jobs. Add an Infrastructure Bill, Building Monuments, Dams, Bridges & Roads would get the REAL Economy back on its feet…
            This is Something Obama Cant do & the New Republicans Wont Do…
            SO Without getting to Political this is why the Military Industrial Complex & weapon systems are spread across the states, & hard to cancel cuz they’ll cost jobs…

        • they had mach 3 missiles when the SR71 was around.. They could never lock on and be close enough at launch to even get near it.
          Missiles only run for a minute and then they run out of fuel. So to shoot at something going Mach 6, you need something going twice as fast..

          • You mean SR71 had never flown close enough to their lunch positions to give them that chance to lock on them?:-)

          • Wrong, there has been a few times that the very capable and designed to do so mig-31 has locked onto the SR-71. Go look it up. In fact, once they had the mig-31 operational, all SR-71 flights kept to doing reconnaissance outside of Russian borders.

      • But if it’s moving that fast, it won’t be able to turn very quickly, so a load of shrapnel in it’s path might cause a lot of inconvenience…

        • how will you get a load of shrapnell up to that altitude in time? the thing travels at 120 km a minute. When you see it, it’s already gone.

      • Because if you detect it entering your airspace you might have a couple minutes to throw a blanket over the scud launchers/mass graves/ark of the covenant before it gets there and starts taking paparazzi pictures.

        • fat chanse, Mach 6 is 2km/sec, in a couple of minutes that thing is 240 km’s further.. IR detection won’t work at such distances, so when you see it, it’s already gone.

          • Actually genius, at 120,000 ft you’d have the aircraft in visual range for a very long time due to the extreme altitude. (The earth is round dude…) This is scramjet technology it only operates at max speeds at barely existent air in the stratosphere. The speed alone is it’s defense. And IR detection works thousands of miles out into space wizard. Where do you pseudo ‘rocket scientists’ come from anyway?

    • At 120,000 feet there’s nothing that could shoot it down at a hypersonic rate of speed. By the time a enemy early warning radar acquired it and launched a SAM it will be out of range and the missile will run out of fuel long before getting anywhere near the aircraft. It will not be able to be shot down at max speed and ceiling. Stealth is out the window with this technology. So I guess you’re just really not that smart. IR band? What do you think they are going to shoot it down with a Sidewinder?

      • As another poster mentioned, lasers are most promising option – even an hypersonic vehicle with heat shielding can only absorb so much heat from non-aerodynamic sources. Of course such lasers are only in early development – but so are hypersonic aircraft.

        The next best thing I imagine could be an hypothetical THAAD, S500 or Arrow derivative taking hypersonic
        aircraft into account. But as you mention, even with those super-missiles the engagement envelope will be slim and it will take a pretty dense and well-organized air defense network to have a chance. Lesser opponents will only be able to enjoy the show on their IRST…

        • or you could heat their cooling system making the whole disfunctional, no need of so much power.

        • S500 missile speeds range from mach 14 to mach 20 with enormous range enough to shoot down satellites.

      • How does S500’s missiles at speeds from mach 14 to mach 20 sound for that costly flying toy from Lockheed?

  1. This has been flying for years… it’s all based on the Aurora protocol and other black platforms. Been waiting for years for them to announce!

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