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Author Topic: SR-72?  (Read 161015 times)

Offline CammNut

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SR-72?
« on: June 12, 2007, 05:44:16 am »
An SR-72 in the works?
By Vago Muradian - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Jun 21, 2007 14:31:17 EDT

Ten years after the Air Force retired the SR-71 spy plane, Lockheed Martin’s legendary Skunk Works appears to be back at work developing a new Mach-6 reconnaissance plane, sources said.

The Air Force has awarded Lockheed’s Advanced Development Projects arm a top-secret contract to develop a stealthy 4,000-mph plane capable of flying to altitudes of about 100,000 feet, with transcontinental range. The plan is to debut the craft around 2020.

The new jet — being referred to by some as the SR-72 — is likely to be unmanned and, while intended for reconnaissance, could eventually trade its sensors for weapons.

The new aircraft would offer a combination of speed, altitude and stealth that could make it virtually impervious to ground-based missiles, sources said. Even the SR-71 is said to have evaded hundreds of missiles fired at it during its long career, although some aircraft sustained minor damage.

But experts say enormous challenges remain. First, the SR-71’s top speed was about 2,200 mph. Pushing a plane at twice that speed in the thin air of the upper stratosphere would require exceptionally powerful engines. Second, friction at high speeds could reduce stealth.

“An aircraft with these characteristics could prove a potent response to anti-satellite weapons,” said Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute. “If U.S. reconnaissance satellites were lost, an SR-72 could get to areas of interest quickly and provide persistent surveillance in place of the satellite.”

And don’t bother asking the Air Force or Skunk Works executives about their work. None is commenting.

“As a matter of policy, we don’t talk about classified programs — whether or not they exist,” Lockheed’s Tom Jurkowsky said.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2009, 04:26:49 pm by flateric »

Offline CammNut

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Re: SR-72?
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2007, 05:53:08 am »
And this

Ares
A Defense Technology Blog  

SR-72?
Posted by Bill Sweetman at 6/11/2007 2:31 PM

Our competitors Defense News report that the Air Force has handed Lockheed's Skunk Works a contract to develop "a stealthy 4,000-mph plane capable of flying to altitudes of about 100,000 feet, with transcontinental range." The rest of the story is subscription-only.

If this sounds to you a lot like the "Aurora" stories of the early 1990s, you're right. However, early last year I had a conversation with a senior Skunk in which he talked about the company's proposal for a new high-speed, high-altitude X-plane.

The X-plane would be the size of a fighter and would be designed for a speed of Mach 6.5 -- 4300 mph -- at 100,000 feet. (The SR-71 Blackbird, retired in 1990, could manage up to Mach 3.3 in sprints at 85,000 feet). It would be powered by two jet engines -- bigger versions of the engine used on the Skunk Works' RATTLRS (Revolutionary Approach To Time-critical Long Range Strike) cruise missile -- integrated into ramjets.

The speed -- less than DARPA'S Falcon Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle project or the USAF's X-51 scramjet demonstrator -- is important. At Mach 6.5, the vehicle can be powered by ramjets, rather than having to incorporate a scramjet (supersonic combustion ramjet) mode into the system. It would take off from a runway and land under power, not as a high-speed glider. It can burn near-standard hydrocarbon fuel, not hydrogen or a similarly exotic propellant. It could be made from conventional materials -- even composites -- with heat-resistant materials confined to the leading edges.

This is important because the idea of the X-plane is not to prove that such an airplane can fly at 4,300 mph but that it is "doable, practical and will work like a regular airplane." (Conspiracy theorists may choose to speculate about why the Skunks regard Mach 6.5, in itself, as No Big Deal.)

And why? The senior Skunk explains that high-fast stresses the defenses in a completely different direction from a stealthy airplane. Stealth aircraft are hard to detect -- but they tend to be slow and easy to hit. A high-fast aircraft may be easy to detect but it is a bugger to hit. Any missile has to lead the target -- or it will never have the energy to catch it -- and it has to lead the target by a long way because the target is covering more than a mile every second as the missile ascends. And at the same time, even a wide turn by the target causes the predicted impact point to move by miles.

In the present budget environment it's unlikely that the Skunk Works has been handed a blank check to build an X-plane, let alone an operational aircraft -- but its seems that the Mach 6 proposal is gaining traction.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2009, 04:28:04 pm by flateric »

Offline Matej

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Re: SR-72?
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2007, 06:07:43 am »
stealthy 4,000-mph plane

This statement alone makes me laughing. Aircraft travelling at 4000 Mph is as big infrared target as nuclear detonation!

Bizarre aviation expert.

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Re: SR-72?
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2007, 11:40:29 am »
stealthy 4,000-mph plane

This statement alone makes me laughing. Aircraft travelling at 4000 Mph is as big infrared target as nuclear detonation!

Easy to see. Hard to shoot down.
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Offline dickie

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Re: SR-72?
« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2007, 12:40:53 pm »
...so if its easy to see because of the extreme temps, why even bother adding "stealthiness" at all? dont the two get in the way of one-another at a certain point (well before mach 6)?

Offline flateric

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Re: SR-72?
« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2007, 01:12:57 pm »
If we are speculating much about using C-300VM and S-400 in context of destroying -already talks about this - ICBMs warheads at reentry phase, what then about 'SR-72' then?
« Last Edit: June 12, 2007, 01:14:49 pm by flateric »
"There are many disbelievers in
stealth, more than a few of them truly technically ignorant and proud of it." Sherm Mullin, Skunk Works

Offline sferrin

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Re: SR-72?
« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2007, 07:12:46 pm »
If we are speculating much about using C-300VM and S-400 in context of destroying -already talks about this - ICBMs warheads at reentry phase, what then about 'SR-72' then?

Warhead don't have wings and aren't guided by a human.  ;)
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Offline Sundog

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Re: SR-72?
« Reply #7 on: June 12, 2007, 07:32:42 pm »
This has been doable for some time. As I've said before, back when I was in school in the 80's, everyone in industry I spoke to didn't think Mach 6 was that difficult, because you could use standard hydrocarbon fuels. Of course, everyone was into NASP at the time, so Mach 6 was probably seen as aiming too low.

As for the Mach 6 speeds and stealth, perhaps this is an application for plasma shielding, since the visual signature won't really be a problem. You also have to consider what is "meant" by stealth. In some cases it means not knowing the aircraft is there. In others, it doesn't mean you don't know the aircraft is there, it just means you can't do a damn thing about it. ;)

Offline Deino

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Re: SR-72?
« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2007, 10:14:14 pm »
Any possible connections ?? ... or too much speculation ???

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Offline dickie

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Re: SR-72?
« Reply #9 on: June 13, 2007, 06:54:04 am »
i like where your head is at.

Offline Archibald

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Re: SR-72?
« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2007, 11:45:56 am »
This has been doable for some time. As I've said before, back when I was in school in the 80's, everyone in industry I spoke to didn't think Mach 6 was that difficult, because you could use standard hydrocarbon fuels. Of course, everyone was into NASP at the time, so Mach 6 was probably seen as aiming too low.

As for the Mach 6 speeds and stealth, perhaps this is an application for plasma shielding, since the visual signature won't really be a problem. You also have to consider what is "meant" by stealth. In some cases it means not knowing the aircraft is there. In others, it doesn't mean you don't know the aircraft is there, it just means you can't do a damn thing about it. ;)

That's why I think, too, for some times now. A Mach 6 aircraft is do-able from 25 years now. All the "bricks" to build such a machine are available with current technology...
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Offline dickie

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Re: SR-72?
« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2007, 12:10:17 pm »
what was lacking? a buyer with money to fund the project? imagine how much more advanced a plane built with today's knowledge and technologies would be... could probably operate at those speeds/altitudes without "pushing the envelope" as the previous generation did.

Offline flateric

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Re: SR-72?
« Reply #12 on: June 14, 2007, 12:21:05 pm »
Hmm...reading NGLRS article fron FI, I can't stop thinking of high stakes against 'SR-72'

"Clearly cost is a major consideration. <...>Technology availability is a major concern that is driving the USAF to subsonic and manned. For a 2018 initial operational capability, the technology used must be at a readiness level - a TRL - of 6 by 2009. TRL 6 requires prototype demonstration in a relevant environment, and essentially limits the next-generation bomber to off-the- shelf technology available now.<...>The technology is not there to support a high-speed penetrating platform with any kind of endurance," says George Muellner, president, advanced systems, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems. "We do not have the engine designs. We do not have the materials to reduce radar cross-section at high speed." Existing radar absorbent coatings cannot withstand the heat generated by sustained supersonic or hypersonic flight, he says.<...>"very challenging fiscal environment"

"There are many disbelievers in
stealth, more than a few of them truly technically ignorant and proud of it." Sherm Mullin, Skunk Works

Offline RyanC

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Re: SR-72?
« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2007, 06:28:02 pm »
If we are speculating much about using C-300VM and S-400 in context of destroying -already talks about this - ICBMs warheads at reentry phase, what then about 'SR-72' then?

 ::)

Quote from: Stuart Slade
To give you some idea of the magnitude of the challenge facing SAM defenses, a SAM capable of getting a 50 eprcent Pk (probability of a kill) against a B-70 would have to have a maximum speed of Mach 9, a range of over 250 miles and a maximum ceiling in excess of 200,000 feet. Anything less than that and it doens't have the excess performance required to make an intercept. The best missile currently available has a speed of Mach 6, a range of 175 miles and a maximum ceiling of around 150,000 feet.

And this plane would travel much faster than a B-70.

Also, hitting incoming ballistic missiles is very easy.

Quote from: Stuart Slade
Actually, perfectly effective and capable ABM systems were available in the 1960s. The first missile-to-missile intercepts were actually made in the late 1950s. During the 1962-66 era, Zeus family ABMs made a total of 64 attempted intercepts of which 59 were successful. A classified number of those intercepts were skin-to-skin hits.

There is nothing difficult about intercepting ballistic missiles. They are on a predictable course and their location at any instant along their flight path can be predicted with absolute accuracy. The only real problems are in getting the system to react fast enough; ironically this affects tactical ballistic missiles much more that strategic ones. It should be noted that the Indians recently conducted a successful ballistic missile intercept and are developing their own ABM.

Offline Woody

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Re: SR-72?
« Reply #14 on: June 16, 2007, 03:34:52 am »
There is nothing difficult about intercepting ballistic missiles. They are on a predictable course and their location at any instant along their flight path can be predicted with absolute accuracy. The only real problems are in getting the system to react fast enough; ironically this affects tactical ballistic missiles much more that strategic ones. It should be noted that the Indians recently conducted a successful ballistic missile intercept and are developing their own ABM.

I know it's not popular to mention this but once an ballistic missile is exo-atmospheric it can launch hundreds of decoys (aluminized balloons as there's no air resistance up there) and on the descent phase they've got MIRVs (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles) - it's a bit like having a gun to shoot down your enemie's buckshot  :), but it's damn good business for the defense contractors since it will never be put to the real test.

Likewise, Mach 6 planes are a good excuse to get ahold of American tax dollars and obviously more profitable than providing poor grunts with half decent APCs in Iraq, but I just don't believe there's the politic will (for a working plane, not the dollars of course). I hope you guys are right as a new hyper plane would cool but as they could only keep the X-43 flying for 11 seconds (after getting there thanks to a solid rocket), I'm not holding my breath.

Sorry for the realism, Cheers, Woody