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Absinthe Anecdote
11-05-2013, 08:26 PM
The days of conventional aircraft as we know them are numbered. With technology like this a mere 20 years away, I don't see the need for an interim platform like the F-35, at least not a large number of them.


SR-72, a Hypersonic Drone is Positioned to be the Successor of SR-71 ‘BlackBird’

Lockheed Martin broke silence today about the development of an unmanned hypersonic aircraft it is proposing for future reconnaissance and long-range strike missions. The company said it is ready to embark on the development of the SR-72 hypersonic unmanned aircraft that could enter service with the U.S. Air Force in 2030.

The proposed drone is positioned the follow-on to the Air Forces’ fastest known strategic reconnaissance aircraft – Mach 3 SR-71 ‘BlackBird’, developed by the legendary designer Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, the chief designer of the Lockheed skunk works in the early 1960s . Envisioned as an unmanned aircraft, the SR-72 would fly at speeds up to Mach 6, or six times the speed of sound. At this speed, the aircraft would be so fast, an adversary would have no time to react or hide.

An SR-72 could be operational by 2030. For the past several years, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works has been working with Aerojet Rocketdyne to develop a method to integrate an off-the-shelf turbine with a supersonic combustion ramjet air breathing jet engine to power the aircraft from standstill to Mach 6.

The turbine based combined cycle propulsion means the turbine is combined with a ramjet to enable operation form static to hypersonic speeds of Mach 5+. At the turbine stage thrust is provided by the turbine engine from takeoff up to about Mach 3, where the ramjet kicks in, accelerating the aircraft up to hypersonic speeds. The turbine engine and ramjet are fed through a single inlet nozzle to significantly reduce drag.

The result is the SR-72 that Aviation Week has dubbed “son of Blackbird,” and integrated engine and airframe that is optimized at the system level for high performance and affordability. “Conceived as a solution to the proliferation of mobile weapons platforms, which can be concealed from satellites, the jet would fly so fast that adversaries would not be able to react in time to hide a mobile target.” Aviation Week writer Guy Norris said.

Lockheed Martin said it is ready to embark on the development of the new hypersonic drone. The SR-72’s design incorporates lessons learned from the HTV-2, which flew to a top speed of Mach 20, or 13,000 mph, with a surface temperature of 3500°F.

According to Brad Leland, Lockheed Martin program manager, Hypersonics, a hypersonic aircraft will be a ‘game changer’. “Hypersonic aircraft, coupled with hypersonic missiles, could penetrate denied airspace and strike at nearly any location across a continent in less than an hour,” said Leland. “Speed is the next aviation advancement to counter emerging threats in the next several decades. The technology would be a game-changer in theater, similar to how stealth is changing the battlespace today.”

SR-72 is not the first hypersonic Skunk Works aircraft. In partnership with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, engineers developed the rocket-launched Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2). The HTV-2 research and development project was designed to collect data on three technical challenges of hypersonic flight: aerodynamics; aerothermal effects; and guidance, navigation and control.

http://defense-update.com/20131101_sr72.html

This article from Popular Science is a little better:

http://www.popsci.com/article/technology/lockheed-martin-developing-hypersonic-spy-plane

Absinthe Anecdote
11-05-2013, 08:38 PM
I guess this is somehow linked to the stories of a project called Aurora from the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Silverback
11-05-2013, 10:04 PM
that sounds really impressive. This plane will make the sr71 look like a snail. I still love the sr71 though. That plane was way ahead of its time.

TomTom093
11-06-2013, 01:40 AM
It sounds awesome, but do we really need it? I feel like it would be another F-35 fustercluck.

Bunch
11-06-2013, 03:44 AM
It sounds awesome, but do we really need it? I feel like it would be another F-35 fustercluck.

Yeah!!

The way the procurement process works currently by the time it gets handed over to the Air Force it will go straight to a museum near you or at best it will be an air show diva.

imnohero
11-06-2013, 04:40 AM
It sounds awesome, but do we really need it? I feel like it would be another F-35 fustercluck.

Aircraft based surviellence assets have a great deal of flexibility is assignment, observation targets, and a human in the loop. By comparison, satellites are expensive, less flexible and less responsive to unpredictable events. The question of do we "really need it" is really the question, what does it get us that satellites don't, and can we get along without that capability? It's a not an easy question to answer because of the uncertainty of what future survellience needs might be.

Though Bunch, I think, was being humorous...he's not too far off the mark on procurement of systems that fill a niche need.

Absinthe Anecdote
11-06-2013, 11:09 AM
Lockheed Martin is supposedly developing this as a dual role long range strike aircraft and reconnaissance. No doubt that the Pentagon is capable of muddling the development of this aircraft by adding capabilities during production.

The original design was for it to function as an autonomous drone, but the Pentagon had them add in a piloted version.

imnohero
11-06-2013, 11:34 AM
Technologically speaking, Lockheed has a lot of work to do. The integration of a turbine and ramjet into the same airframe is not going to be easy. Second, the structures and materials used in the sub-sonic and hypersonic environments are different. Just as an example, the skin of the aircraft has to be able to go from surface ambient to 3000+ degrees and back, (thermal expansion/contraction) repeatedly without ripping itself off the aircraft. Using a hypersonic platform as a long range strike system faces some major operational obstacles.

There isn't even close to enough information in this article to suggest that Lockheed is on track to solve this by 2030. My guess is that this is intentional information release for some strategic reason, e.g. get the information public to add political pressure for more funding.

Absinthe Anecdote
11-06-2013, 11:40 AM
Technologically speaking, Lockheed has a lot of work to do. The integration of a turbine and ramjet into the same airframe is not going to be easy. Second, the structures and materials used in the sub-sonic and hypersonic environments are different. Just as an example, the skin of the aircraft has to be able to go from surface ambient to 3000+ degrees and back, (thermal expansion/contraction) repeatedly without ripping itself off the aircraft. Using a hypersonic platform as a long range strike system faces some major operational obstacles.

There isn't even close to enough information in this article to suggest that Lockheed is on track to solve this by 2030. My guess is that this is intentional information release for some strategic reason, e.g. get the information public to add political pressure for more funding.

I'm under the impression that they had a flying prototype back in the 1990s.

imnohero
11-06-2013, 12:19 PM
There have been various projects underway since the 50's. However, the current FALCON project has been underway since 2002-3. For basic information the wiki page is a good start: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DARPA_Falcon_Project

The rockwell x-30 was being worked on in the 90s but I don't think it ever flew. Again, a good summary and start for research: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rockwell_X-30

imnohero
11-06-2013, 12:20 PM
Ok, umm, my post went to moderation... hopefully it will show up with the links but take a look at the wikipedia pages for the 90s Rockwell X-30 project and the current FALCON hypersonic projects. They provide some good basic information on hypersonic flight.

Absinthe Anecdote
11-06-2013, 12:53 PM
They have been working on this since the 1980s and have made a lot of progress. If they are saying that they can have a demonstration airframe flying in 5 years, I think they have solved all the major problems.

There was a lot of talk about a hypersonic project called Aurora back in the 1990s that was a full size flying proto-type. I don't think this is really anything that new.

I think the bigger question is, do we even need a platform like this?

Lockheed has run scaled tests on components. “The next step would be to put it through a series of tests or critical demonstrations,” Leland says. “We are ready for those critical demonstrations, and we could be ready to do such a demonstration aircraft in 2018. That would be the beginning of building and running complete critical demonstrations. As of now, there are no technologies to be invented. We are ready to proceed—the only thing holding us back is the perception that [hypersonics] is always expensive, large and exotic.”

http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/awx_11_01_2013_p0-632731.xml&p=1

ttribe
11-06-2013, 01:44 PM
A story I read said that it will have about the same range as the -71. At twice the -71s speed, he would be constantly climbing and descending to and from a tanker. That's if it burns something that a tanker can carry and deliver. There are alot more tech problems to solve and invent before this thing is flyable and operational.

imnohero
11-07-2013, 01:52 AM
They have been working on this since the 1980s and have made a lot of progress. If they are saying that they can have a demonstration airframe flying in 5 years, I think they have solved all the major problems.

There was a lot of talk about a hypersonic project called Aurora back in the 1990s that was a full size flying proto-type. I don't think this is really anything that new.

I think the bigger question is, do we even need a platform like this?

Lockheed has run scaled tests on components. “The next step would be to put it through a series of tests or critical demonstrations,” Leland says. “We are ready for those critical demonstrations, and we could be ready to do such a demonstration aircraft in 2018. That would be the beginning of building and running complete critical demonstrations. As of now, there are no technologies to be invented. We are ready to proceed—the only thing holding us back is the perception that [hypersonics] is always expensive, large and exotic.”

http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/awx_11_01_2013_p0-632731.xml&p=1

There is a lot in that article to digest. It's spun pretty positively by Lockheed rep, but realistically where they are is small scale models and wind tunnel testing. That's a long long way from a working prototype. The big thing they have to figure out is the transsonic speed regime and switching from turbine to ramjet/scramjet propulltion. The Lockheed rep claims they've figure this out, but won't give a hint as to how. You'll pardon me for being skeptical, of course he's going to say they have it figured out, he doesn't have to prove it until 2018, at least.

The Aurora Project did get talked up a lot. Supposedly built in the 80s, the government denies it, there are claims of "sightings"...but I don't think there's any definitive proof the aircraft ever actually existed. If you follow the links on the wiki page, it's like reading UFOlogist websites. Lots of claims but there, there.

The "do we need it" question...the easy answer is big blue says we do. Whether that is a good answer, or a budget friendly answer, ... I don't know. I return to my previous posts on this... my counter question is, what does it give us that we can't do already? and can we live without it? (Note that this is the answer that big AF gives for a program they want to cancel...the "yes, we need it but we can get along without it" answer)

Absinthe Anecdote
11-07-2013, 02:04 AM
There is a lot in that article to digest. It's spun pretty positively by Lockheed rep, but realistically where they are is small scale models and wind tunnel testing. That's a long long way from a working prototype. The big thing they have to figure out is the transsonic speed regime and switching from turbine to ramjet/scramjet propulltion. The Lockheed rep claims they've figure this out, but won't give a hint as to how. You'll pardon me for being skeptical, of course he's going to say they have it figured out, he doesn't have to prove it until 2018, at least.

The Aurora Project did get talked up a lot. Supposedly built in the 80s, the government denies it, there are claims of "sightings"...but I don't think there's any definitive proof the aircraft ever actually existed. If you follow the links on the wiki page, it's like reading UFOlogist websites. Lots of claims but there, there.

The "do we need it" question...the easy answer is big blue says we do. Whether that is a good answer, or a budget friendly answer, ... I don't know. I return to my previous posts on this... my counter question is, what does it give us that we can't do already? and can we live without it? (Note that this is the answer that big AF gives for a program they want to cancel...the "yes, we need it but we can get along without it" answer)

2018 is right around the corner...