Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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US Developing SR-72 Hypersonic Fighter to Launch Hypersonic Missiles

Son of Blackbird

(Photo : Lockheed Martin) SR-72 (concept).

The United States continues development of the Lockheed Martin SR-72 hypersonic strike fighter capable of launching its payload of hypersonic missiles flying faster than Mach 5 (6,200 km/h) at enemy targets hundreds of kilometers distant.

The SR-72, which is scheduled for deployment by 2030, is the first hypersonic aircraft in the world being designed to unleash hypersonic missiles, which are also known as hypersonic glide weapons (HGVs).

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This hypersonic fighter was nicknamed "Son of Blackbird," in honor of its "father," the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird strategic reconnaissance aircraft retired by the U.S. Air Force in 1998. During its heyday, the Blackbird was the world's fastest aircraft, achieving a maximum speed of Mach 3.3 (3,540 km/h) and having a service ceiling of 26,000 meters.

But unlike its unarmed "dad," the son can and will launch hypersonic missiles at Russian and Chinese targets in the event of a future war.

The son will also reach speeds in excess of Mach 6 (7,400 km/h), twice the speed achieved by its father. Unlike its father that carried two pilots, however, the son will be an unmanned robotic drone flown by computers.

Lockheed-Martin, specifically its famous fabled "Skunk Works"(officially the Advanced Development Programs or ADP), began development work on the SR-72 in 2013. It said the combination of high speeds generated by the SR-72 and its hypersonic missiles mean no enemy missile defense systems will be capable of stopping it.

It noted the SR-72 and its hypersonic missiles can penetrate denied airspace and strike at nearly any location across a continent in less than an hour.

Lockheed Martin said a prototype of the SR-72 might take to the air before 2025. Development of the SR-72 is being guided by the aim that this aircraft will fly so fast that an adversary will have no time to react or hide.

"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 Brad Leland, Lockheed Martin hypersonics program manager.

"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 battle space today."

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