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Skunk Works Reveals Proposed SR-71 Successor: the Hypersonic SR-72 216

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'll-order-a-dozen dept.
cold fjord writes "Aviation Week reports, 'Ever since Lockheed's unsurpassed SR-71 Blackbird was retired ... almost two decades ago, the perennial question has been: Will it ever be succeeded by a new-generation, higher-speed aircraft and, if so, when? That is, until now. 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. Guided by the U.S. Air Force's long-term hypersonic road map, the SR-72 is designed to fill what are perceived by defense planners as growing gaps in coverage of fast-reaction intelligence by the plethora of satellites, subsonic manned and unmanned platforms meant to replace the SR-71.'"
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Skunk Works Reveals Proposed SR-71 Successor: the Hypersonic SR-72

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  • Finally (Score:5, Funny)

    by binarylarry (1338699) on Friday November 01, 2013 @03:56PM (#45304017)

    I was feeling naked with all this NSA spying and no air surveillance.

    I'm glad things are back and track and I can be monitored in my backyard and abroad, for my safety.

    Thanks for looking out for me, big brother!

    • Re:Finally (Score:5, Informative)

      by SirGarlon (845873) on Friday November 01, 2013 @04:01PM (#45304081)
      The U-2 spy plane is still flying [wikipedia.org] and it can carry a 5,000-pound [archive.org] payload of surveillance equipment. So there is plenty of air surveillance; you just didn't know about it.
      • Which is kind of stupid if you consider how much surveillance equipment actually weighs today and that the pilot isn't really all that useful in the plane.
        • by JeffOwl (2858633)
          When the equipment gets smaller, they just put more of it on. One reason the U2 is still in use is because it actually costs less to operate than the Global Hawk, for example.
          • I just wonder if the operating cost issue is unavoidable or just coincidental.
            • I think there appears to be enough spy stuff that's working. How about joy rides? I'm thinking Ferris Bullers Day Off in an SR72. With its speed, couldn't it go to the ISS? One day Papa Johns, still steaming, in the box, to the ISS. Now that would be good marketing, and cheaper than making 2 SR72's. Now where are we going to put the Red Bull logo at?
        • A lot of it is quite small and light, but some things will remain heavy and large for the foreseeable future. The optics are the main part of this, you need a large aperture to gather enough light to get clear shots while moving, and you need a long focal length to get good shots from high altitude. That means a pretty big set of lenses. And you want a lens for each camera. Now, it's nowhere near 5000 pounds, but it will be quite a bit heavier than your cell phone's camera.
          • Believe it or not, but I actually do happen to have a few fancy terms such as the Airy disk and the diffraction limit and what not in my vocabulary. I even happen to remember that your ordinary astronomical telescope has a resolving power in seconds of arc approximately 120 divided by D as the entrance pupil measured in millimeters; a fact that I learned when I was eleven or so. The fact remains that having to ferry people to high altitudes and keep them alive is more costly than not having to do that. I d
        • by tsotha (720379)
          These aren't cell phone cameras we're talking about here. One of the reasons the CIA has sort of grudgingly continued U-2 flights in lieu of the RQ-4 is the latter doesn't have enough payload (along with other considerations, like price).
          • What is it with you people and cell phone cameras? I don't understand why "because it's not a cell phone camera" should be a reasonable answer to that, nor do I understand how many people seem to have the irresistible urge to say that.
            • by tsotha (720379)
              Is it really that hard to understand? For the multi-spectrum, satellite quality sensors you're going to find in a high altitude spy plane the extra ton the U-2 can carry is a real operational consideration.
              • I was referring to your knee-jerk reaction referring to "cell-phone cameras", not to the (lack of) desirability of carrying interesting payloads. Of course, you don't carry satellite quality sensors on reconnaissance planes because reconnaissance planes are not satellites. They don't have to qualify for the environmental condition ranges peculiar to space operations, they don't even have to endure the kind of maintenance-free operation that is regularly required of space equipment. (And also, since they ope
      • Global Hawk [wikipedia.org] also works reasonably well on this role.

  • by c0d3g33k (102699) on Friday November 01, 2013 @04:03PM (#45304119)

    ... can finally replace their old beater with something a little more hip and modern. Party at the mansion!
    .
    .
    .
    .
    http://marvel.wikia.com/X-Men_Blackbird [wikia.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 01, 2013 @04:10PM (#45304213)

    A defense contractor, a tea partier, and a teacher sit down to a plate of 10 cookies. The defense contractor takes 9, leans over to the tea partier, and says "psst, the teacher is trying to steal your cookie"

    • A defense contractor, a tea partier, and a teacher sit down to a plate of 10 cookies. The defense contractor takes 9, leans over to the tea partier, and says "psst, the teacher is trying to steal your cookie"

      That joke isn't so much funny as it is weird. The goal of the Tea Party is for there to be less spending, so there would be fewer cookies to begin with. It even fails as a "guns versus butter" joke given the actual the realities [heritage.org] of the budget.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by deadweight (681827)
        You see the Tea Party as rational actors. Many of us see them as deluded fools - or "usefull idiots" - stirred up by puppet masters who have NO intention of actually bringing about TeaHadi Paradise.
        • by tsotha (720379)
          You see them as deluded fools because you're deluded fools.
        • by Dereck1701 (1922824) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @07:10AM (#45310107)

          The Tea Party, like any political group, is a mix of people with a varied political mindsets. You have many very reasonable Tea Party members, a few "far right" (shutdown the gov, defund everything, etc) and a few "far left" (support the unions, regulate everything, etc). The same can be said of any political group. There is no doubt that the Republicans have tried to co-opt them as a wing of their party, but every Tea Party rally I've ever seen (admittedly only a few) has been equally disappointed in both mainstream political parties. The Tea Party in and of itself is probably never going to bring about meaningful change, but the fact that they have shook up the political landscape a little, forcing some of D.C.s issues (debt, waste, pork, political favors, etc) out into the open I feel is a very good thing and hopefully will continue for many years to come.

  • This is the kind of thing where I'd have expected them to say "here's the successor to the SR-71, and oh by the way it's been operational for 20 years." (And that they'd only be saying it now because the next black project is coming online and it's obsolete.)

    But instead they're saying they actually didn't have anything in-use during that time? I'm disappointed!

  • Crashed and /.ed.
  • by Antipater (2053064) on Friday November 01, 2013 @04:15PM (#45304293)
    TFA won't load. But how "affordable" are we talking, here? Manhattan Project levels of affordable, or F-35 levels of "affordable"?
    • Eh, less than $120,000/flight hour, pinkie swear!
    • by fnj (64210)

      What do you think "Manhattan Project" level of spending is? The whole frikkin deal only cost 2 billion 1940s dollars, or 26 billion 2013 dollars. For an earth shattering game changer, it was cheaper than dirt. That was out of about 300 billion 1940s dollars the US spent on WW2 in its entirety.

      For comparison, the B-17/B-24 four engine bomber building program (28,000 planes between the two) cost very roughly 7 billion. They battered Germany for some 2-1/2 years, but it still took a colossal ground invasion on

      • Re:Affordable? (Score:5, Informative)

        by timeOday (582209) on Friday November 01, 2013 @10:49PM (#45308341)
        I'm more impressed that all of WWII cost the US only 300 BN. That's $3.7T in today's dollars, which happens to be equal to the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars put together:

        The most recent major report on these costs come from Brown University in the form of the Costs of War project, which said the total for wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan is at least $3.2-4 trillion.

        Of course the cost of WWII to the US was very small compared to the costs to nations where it was actually fought.

      • That...was kinda my point, if you didn't realize.
  • Please (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Cat (19816) * on Friday November 01, 2013 @04:26PM (#45304441)

    This country can't build a web site. How the fuck are we going to build an SR-72?

    • Amazing plane, looks like a fish, moves like a fish, steers like a cow.
      Will it be available in the traditional Hotblack Desiato livery?
      Will it still leak oil straight off the showroom floor like a '57 Jaguar?
    • This country can't build a web site. How the fuck are we going to build an SR-72?

      Hey, be fair, If Obamacare actually had death panels, we probably would have gotten it right...

    • by sootman (158191)

      As long as ten million people don't need to fly it the first day, it'll probably be OK.

    • by osu-neko (2604)

      This country can't build a web site. How the fuck are we going to build an SR-72?

      It's a matter of priorities. We can't build a website, but we sure as heck can build a warplane. We have a lot more experience at that, too...

  • by Hobadee (787558) on Friday November 01, 2013 @04:41PM (#45304655) Homepage Journal

    The fact that they announced this means 1 of 2 things.
    1. The SR-72 has been in service for quite a while already.
    -or-
    2. Lockheed Martin proposed this to the military a while ago and they turned it down.

    You really think *this* government would actually tell us about the latest and greatest?

    • by amorsen (7485)

      Aircraft development is getting so expensive that it cannot be hidden anymore.

    • third option: it's a red herring. They're building it to distract people away from the micro-ornithopters that we're really using to gather intelligence.
  • Not only are the team of engineers that could have done this work long since retired or dead, so too apparently is anyone that can put out a credible disinformation campaign.

  • From the Slashdot fortune on the bottom of the page: When the weight of the paperwork equals the weight of the plane, the plane will fly. -- Donald Douglas

    I guess the magazine articles are a good start.

  • I would love to believe that the US could still pull off cutting edge aerospace project, but I'm really skeptical. After 50 years we've lost our manned space program, hard to believe we are building a project that will push the limits beyond existing technology. This looks like NASP (X30), Constellation, manned mars missions and various other ambitious programs that provided some nice pictures and fancy design studies, but never really went anywhere.

    I hope I'm wrong and we are still doing cool aerospace st

    • I would love to believe that the US could still pull off cutting edge aerospace project, but I'm really skeptical. After 50 years we've lost our manned space program, hard to believe we are building a project that will push the limits beyond existing technology. This looks like NASP (X30), Constellation, manned mars missions and various other ambitious programs that provided some nice pictures and fancy design studies, but never really went anywhere.

      I hope I'm wrong and we are still doing cool aerospace stuff.

      Keep up the hope, because this isn't aerospace, but military. The military is still getting plenty of money to build a first strike hypersonic missiles and planes. Later, if we're lucky, the tech might get repurposed into a space plane.

      • Re:I wish (Score:5, Interesting)

        by green is the enemy (3021751) on Friday November 01, 2013 @09:46PM (#45307971)
        I'm cautiously optimistic that hypersonic flight will eventually make it to passenger airlines. It would be really nice to travel to Japan or Australia in 3 hours instead of 15. There are enough oceans over which to fly without worrying about the sonic boom. Reaction Engines is working on an interesting hypersonic engine prototype [wikipedia.org]. That one looks even better than this military scramjet: higher thrust-to-weight ratio and ability to function as a rocket engine. This engine would enable travel by ballistic trajectory .. even faster and way cooler. People would pay crazy money just to ride it for the thrill of it. Maybe these are just dreams.
        • I'd certainly like faster international travel!

          I'm not sure that hypersonic is a win over sub-orbital ballistic. Using the air for oxidizer is a big win, but the energy loss from drag may more than make up for it. I haven't seen a good side by side comparison of the fuel requirements for the two modes for say a 6000 mile trip.

  • Just one other question needs to be answered, does it leave string of donut holes as exhaust.

I'd rather just believe that it's done by little elves running around.

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