Any jet-loving 10-year-old boy worth his salt had a poster of the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird hanging somewhere in his bedroom as the 20th century drew to a close. Mine was pretty much front-and-center, right above the 10-inch TV and the Turbografx-16.
Not only was the matte-black reconnaissance jet the fastest, highest-flying jet in the entire American arsenal, it just looked awesome. It looked like it was going Mach 3 on the ground — and when it was in the sky, it could hit that number with ease.
The SR-71 is sadly long retired — it entered service in 1964, after all — but the good news is that my kids will have something from Lockheed that’s going to be just as awesome to put above their 4k TV and Xbox. Fittingly, the craft is called the SR-72 — and new satellite photos may show what it’s going to look like.
Unlike Mr. Glockner’s other pursuits, however, we know that the SR-72 is in development, and the satellite image he found looks a lot like artist renditions of the SR-72:
“What you’re seeing is a very secretive object… I haven’t been able to work out what it is,” Glockner says in the video.
“It is no public aircraft that has been disclosed,” he continued. “You can see that this thing looks like a hypersonic aircraft or spacecraft.”
Actually, if it is the SR-72 — and the resemblance is definitely there — it is a hypersonic aircraft, hiding out at an airfield in Palm Beach County, Florida.
Popular Mechanics reports that the unmanned SR-72 should be able to fly at Mach 6 (or roughly 4,500 mph), thanks to a unique cyclical propulsion system that combines a rocket engine with a supersonic jet engine.
“We’ve been saying hypersonics is two years away for the last 20 years, but all I can say is the technology is mature and we, along with DARPA and the services, are working hard to get that capability into the hands of our warfighters as soon as possible,” said Rob Weiss, Lockheed Martin’s executive vice president and general manager for Skunk Works.
Skunk Works, for those of you who didn’t have posters of jets on your bedroom wall, is responsible for some of the coolest and most advanced planes in aviation history.
The highly secretive division was responsible for the first stealth fighter, the F-117 Nighthawk. It also built another spy plane you might have heard of: The U-2. More recently, it’s designed the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II.
And, as for whether the SR-72 would be ready so quickly, it’s worth noting that Lockheed’s vice president of strategy and customer requirements, Jack O’Banion, “let slip” at a recent conference that the aircraft had already been produced.
If that sounds unusual, keep in mind that the Air Force and the Skunk Works were able to keep the existence of the F-117 secret for the better part of a decade, and the U-2 would have stayed secret were it not for a very lucky shot by the Russians during the Eisenhower administration.
Is it the SR-72? Is it a mock-up? Is it an alien craft? Only time will tell (although one gathers only Mr. Glockner and Giorgio A. Tsoukalos would bet money on the last option). However, I hope it’s the SR-71’s long-awaited successor.
Part of me even wants to go out and buy a poster of it.
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