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.


  1. Lockheed, along with Aerojet Rocketdyne, has made some great leaps forward recently regarding hypersonic flight, specifically scramjet engine technology. Since that was the greatest hurdle to cross, I wouldn’t be surprised if prototypes are already flying in Area 51. But then again, since this technology would be a huge step forward and a major advantage over Russia and China, i kind of doubt it they would just reveal it to the press. This things are cooked up deep in the black budget programs and you sure wouldn’t read about it on the internet, especially not information got directly from Lockheed’s representative.

  2. Good grief there are a load of dumb asses here- Mach 6 is definitely not immune from missiles!!
    Just as the soviets did with the Blackbird,it’s easy to track such a plane from a great distance.That means it’s relatively easy to have something waiting on it’s likely route.
    The soviets did this against the blackbird thirty years ago!

    All they need to neuter the SR72 the same way is to develop a faster missile, and that’s relatively trivial

  3. Let’s do some brainstorming here. Cars can out run the police but can’t out run radio and they get caught. And if you’re a plane you can’t out run radar. So an oncoming Mach 6+ SR72 creates a high temperature plasma shell around its ablative surfaces. (Wouldn’t that high temperature plasma affect the quality of imaging and Elint?) A vehicle moving this fast would also create a rip or tear in the sky. Your first warning of a hypersonic fly-over would be launch alarm by some type of low-orbital super-intercooled imaging equipment; it would be able to detect the heat signature acting like an arrow providing an indication of the flight paths direction. Then, a series of radio telescopes acting as theodolites pointing off at some distant star would notice the change in signal and using some type of reverse adiabatic Estinghouse-Nurst algorithm, processing the data and be able to detect what is, by detecting what isn’t. A central command would process the multiple sources of target information and calculate several head on intercept probabilities. It wouldn’t be necessary to hit the SR72 just causing it to change its flight path is as good as shooting it down. Using several 1960’s type U.S. Sprint missiles launched in a volley in the flight path would be enough to disrupt the freestream air flow altering the oblique inlet shock waves, changing the stoichiometric ratio causing the scramjet engine cycle to fail. These missiles accelerated at 100g’s or Mach 10 in 5 seconds. It could be at 95,040’ (18 miles) in less than 15 seconds, Guided visually by laser and riding a beam the missile could be brought in front of the target at altitudes of 37 miles or 195,360’ in 30 seconds. With some range/altitude enhancements a U.S. Sprint type missile could reach the Karman Line in less 60 seconds. The best defense for a Mach 6+ SR72 would be change course, speed and altitude often while flying the edge of the Karman Line. Just sharing some thoughts.

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