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Super high speed attack drone could revolutionize warfare, strategy and geopolitics

November 4, 2013

The SR-71 Blackbird is a legendary Cold War era intelligence platform with a top speed and altitude that were both classified, but which are generally acknowledged to be the fastest and highest ever recorded by human flight.   The Blackbird was one of the creations of Lockheed’s famous Skunk Works, and today the company’s current incarnation – Lockheed Martin – has announced its plans to build the “Son of the Blackbird,” the SR-72.  The SR-72 would be a remotely piloted (aka, drone) plane that could travel at Mach 6 or greater.  Unlike the SR-71, however, the SR-72 would be fitted with weapons; specifically, hypersonic missiles that would match or exceed the SR-72s own speed.

“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 program manager, Hypersonics. “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.”

Speed is the New Stealth, Lockheed claims.  The company also states that the SR-72 could be operational by 2030.   A plane with this speed (and presumed range) drastically shrinks the globe and also eliminates (or drastically diminishes) the need for expensive foreign bases and aircraft carriers.    Of course, as the technology diffuses (as all technologies do), it also diminishes the safety that two oceans have traditionally brought to the US homeland.

SR-72:  The hypersonic and deadly "Son of the Blackbird"

SR-72: The hypersonic and deadly “Son of the Blackbird”

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