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US "on the verge of a hypersonics revolution" as SR-72 prototype sighted in Palmdale

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  • US "on the verge of a hypersonics revolution" as SR-72 prototype sighted in Palmdale ... ypersonics

    Amid SR-72 Rumors, Skunk Works Ramps Up Hypersonics

    Sep 27, 2017
    Guy Norris

    FORT WORTH, Texas—
    Lockheed Martin is ramping up development of hypersonic system technology as observers report the first sightings of a demonstrator vehicle believed to be linked to the Skunk Works’ planned SR-72 high-speed aircraft project. “Although I can’t go into specifics, let us just say the Skunk Works team in Palmdale, California, is doubling down on our commitment to speed,” says Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of aeronautics at Lockheed Martin, speaking at the SAE International Aerotech Congress and Exhibition here. “Simply put, I believe the United States is on the verge of a hypersonics revolution,” he says.

    Referencing ongoing development of the Darpa/U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Tactical Boost Glide weapon and Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept research program, the latter in competition with Raytheon, Carvalho says, “Over the last decade progress has been moving quickly, and hypersonic technology is clearly becoming apparent to everyone as a game changer. We continue to advance and test technology which will benefit hypersonic flight and are working on multiple programs, including two Darpa efforts. Speed matters, especially when it comes to national security.” While making no specific mention of the SR-72, which the company is proposing as a hypersonic replacement for the long-retired high-supersonic SR-71 Blackbird, Carvalho’s positive remarks echo recent comments by Rob Weiss, executive vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs organization. Speaking to Aviation Week in June, Weiss hinted that progress towards an optionally piloted SR-72 precursor flight research vehicle (FRV) was proceeding on schedule.

    Skunk Works is believed to be planning the start of FRV development next year, with first flight targeted for 2020. The FRV will be around the same size as an F-22 and powered by a full-scale, combined-cycle engine. However, in the run-up to the demonstrator development, Lockheed is thought to be testing several discrete technologies in a series of ground and flight tests. According to information provided to Aviation Week, one such technology demonstrator, believed to be an unmanned subscale aircraft, was observed flying into the U.S. Air Force’s Plant 42 at Palmdale, where Skunk Works is headquartered. The vehicle, which was noted landing in the early hours at an unspecified date in late July, was seen with two T-38 escorts. Lockheed Martin declined to comment directly on the sighting. The company previously has said the follow-on step would be development of a full-scale, twin-engined SR-72. With roughly the same proportions as the SR-71, the larger vehicle would enter flight test in the late 2020s. “Hypersonics is like stealth. It is a disruptive technology and will enable various platforms to operate at two to three times the speed of the Blackbird,” Carvalho says. “Operational survivability and lethality is the ultimate deterrent. Security classification guidance will only allow us to say the speed is greater than Mach 5.
    Last edited by citanon; 30 Sep 17,, 00:02.