fb

Every known detail about secret fastest ever plane SR-72 “Son of Blackbird”

It will have a speed of over Mach 6 and feature hypersonic missiles.
  • Lockheed’s mysterious SR-72 Son of Blackbird, aka, ‘Darkstar is top secret
  • Its speed, weaponry and the materials it’s built with make it groundbreaking
  • Here’s what we do know

Published on Mar 8, 2024 at 3:30PM (UTC+4)

Last updated on Mar 8, 2024 at 8:03PM (UTC+4)

Edited by Alessandro Renesis

Lockheed’s mysterious SR-72 Son of Blackbird, aka, ‘Darkstar’ is ripe with speculation and cloaked in secrecy.

Here’s everything we do know.

READ MORE! Top Gun: Maverick’s Darkstar – how Lockheed Martin built prototype Mach 10 jet

Rumors about the enigmatic aircraft project first took off in 2007, but it was the release of Top Gun: Maverick in 2022 that catapulted the SR-72 back into the limelight.

The unnamed craft was to be developed for potential purchase by the United States Air Force (USAF) for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.

At this point we should probably point out the USAF has never officially confirmed or denied that Lockheed Martin has approached it about the craft.

However, Lockheed Martin has announced they are working on the SR-72 concept collaborating with Aerojet Rocketdyne.

In fact, a prototype is expected to take to the skies in the not too distant future.

It’s fast

Reports suggest that the aircraft would reach speeds over Mach 6 (more than 6,400 km/h).

To put that into perspective: that’s twice the speed of the SR-71 aircraft, which was known as the fastest plane ever, when it came into service in 1974.

The aircraft’s high speed will enable it, in theory, to penetrate protected airspace easily.

Lockheed Martin has developed something called Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2), a rocket-launched aircraft, as part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA’s) “Falcon” project.

The HTV-2 project was created to gather data on aerodynamics, guidance, navigation, control, and aerothermal effects.

Its first flight was in April 2010 and the uncrewed aircraft achieved a maximum speed of Mach 20 (~20,900 kilometers per hour).

The knowledge and data obtained from the HTV-2 are now thought to be being used to develop better designs for the SR-72.

It would take less than 12 minutes to fly from New York City to Los Angeles.

Hypersonic missiles will feature

Son of Blackbird is thought to be crucial in developing the Hypersonic Missile project.

According to Airforce Technology, the SR-72 aircraft will be a hypersonic reconnaissance aircraft.

It will feature state-of-the-art technology for missions and ranges similar to the SR-71 aircraft.

If equipped with hypersonic missiles like Lockheed Martin’s High-Speed Strike Weapon (HSSW), the aircraft will be capable of hitting targets on any continent within an hour.

The USAF’s ‘hypersonic roadmap’ for the long term supports the development of the SR-72.

It will have two different types of engine

The SR-72 w is widely reported to be powered by two types of engine.

Conventional turbojet and turbofan engines can power to an aircraft during takeoff and landing at subsonic speeds, while jet engines cannot be used during takeoff and landing at hypersonic speeds.

The SR-72 will receive thrust from the turbine engine until it reaches Mach 3 speed, at which point the dual-mode ramjet will take over.

On a turbine-based combined cycle (TBCC) propulsion system the aircraft can achieve a cruise speed of Mach 6 (~7,300 kilometers per hour).

The TBCC system’s subscale ground tests were conducted by integrating a small off-the-shelf turbine engine with a dual-mode ramjet/scramjet with an axisymmetric inlet and a nozzle.

 It will use advanced materials

The SR-72 will feature advanced materials, including carbon-carbon composites that can withstand more extreme thermal stress than the titanium skin used for heat dissipation in the SR-71.

Speed is generated when traveling at sustained high speeds via skin friction and Lockheed is thinking about two potential option.

The company will likely either opt for a space shuttle-style cold structure, which is what USNI News is saying, or a titanium structure.

Stealth technology may not be very effective in an aircraft like the SR-72 since the radar-absorbent materials may not withstand high temperatures.

The jet’s large infrared signature would also render signature reduction measures ineffective.

The aircraft may also leave behind a wake that could be detected on radar, similar to the SR-71.

It will use unconventional fuels, too.

Like its predecessor, the SR-72 might use a more JP-7 jet fuel, which was created exclusively for the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird aircraft.

This fuel is specifically designed for the aircraft’s high-speed, high-altitude missions as it also acts as a coolant.

It could be in the sky by 2030

Lockheed Martin stated that the hypersonic engine is already prepped for use.

While a single-engine prototype could start flying as soon as 2025, the target is to have a twin-engine platform in operational service by 2030.

It’s believed that flight testing may begin in the mid-2020s.

Keep your eyes on the skies.

Some of the images in this piece were created using AI.

You might be interested in

Related Articles

ISS crew return to Earth and are extracted from capsule in incredible footage
Audi scrapped the 'Skorpion', an endurance car for the road
Supersonic: the origins of Concorde
Engineering firm develops F1 driving simulator that could save car manufacturers millions
Pilot films 360° cockpit view of full flight from Dallas to Miami
Alpine to run hydrogen-combustion prototype supercar next month
Thalassery-Mahe National Highway bypass is 'like a skyscraper lying down' in stunning engineering feat
New hypersonic aircraft designed and built in 7 months will fly later this year