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SR-72 ‘Son of Blackbird’: The Air Force’s Mach 6 Monster?


The Lockheed Martin SR-72, also known as the “Son of Blackbird,” is a hypersonic unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) concept that is being developed under the company’s Skunk Works or Advanced Development Programs.

This next-generation aircraft has been tabbed to be the highly anticipated successor to SR-71 Blackbird that retired from service in the U.S. Air Force in 1998. Since that year, the company had made several attempts to develop a successor to the SR-71 but was unable to do so.

As explained by author James C. Goodall, per Aviation Geek Club, the Lockheed Martin “contract provides for a parametric design study to establish the viability of a turbine-based combined cycle (TBCC) propulsion system consisting of several combinations of near-term turbine engine solutions integrated with a very low-Mach ignition dual-mode ramjet (DMRJ) in the SR-72 vehicle concept.”

Speed Rules

It continues: “The SR-72 is envisioned as an unmanned, reusable hypersonic ISR and strike aircraft capable of Mach 6 flight, or nearly double the speed of its predecessor, the SR-71 Blackbird. NASA is funding the validation of a previous Lockheed study that found that speeds up to Mach 7 could be achieved with a dual-mode engine that combines turbine and ramjet technologies.”

If this mind-bending speed is eventually achieved, the aircraft could theoretically depart from a base located in the continental United States to hit targets across the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans in roughly ninety minutes.

“The USAF has a hypersonics roadmap that envisions fielding a hypersonic strike weapon, to succeed the X-51 Waverider proof-of-concept demonstration. The Waverider successfully launched from a B-52 and was powered to Mach 4.8 by a booster rocket. The X-51 then accelerated to Mach 5.1 after igniting its ramjet engine,” Aviation Geek Club writes.

“The roadmap envisions a follow-on program calling for a reusable unmanned aircraft with Mach 6 speeds. At that speed, intelligence can be gathered or weapons delivered before enemy air defenses are even alerted,” it added.

Strike Operations

According to Airforce Technology, this “SR-72 aircraft will have the capability to perform high speed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and strike operations. The first flight of the SR-72 demonstrator is anticipated in 2023, while the full-scale aircraft is expected to enter into service by 2030.”

The SR-72 will boast similar size and range as the SR-71 and will likely engage in the same missions.

“The new aircraft is expected to strike targets anywhere across a continent in less than an hour when equipped with hypersonic missiles such as Lockheed Martin’s High Speed Strike Weapon (HSSW). The high-speed of the aircraft ensures penetration into protected airspace. … The SR-72 will be optionally equipped to fight in combat operations,” the site says.


SR-72 Darkstar

SR-72. Image: Lockheed Martin.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Written By

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV.



  1. Philip Spector

    September 22, 2021 at 8:40 pm

    This aircraft looks absolutely amazing.

  2. Daniel John

    September 23, 2021 at 10:36 am

    At what point is refueling required? Or how often to cross the Pacific or Atlantic?


    September 23, 2021 at 11:39 am

    I would say that they already have a vehicle capable of The metrics mentioned in the article. The Aurora has been flying for quite a while. Parametric technology although claiming it’s new really is not. There are weapons and vehicles in the Arsenal that people would not believe until they see them!

  4. phil stacy

    September 23, 2021 at 11:57 am

    I don’t understand why there are still weapons fanboys when the military is being purged to be a tool of communist tyranny.

  5. Ed Henderson

    September 23, 2021 at 3:43 pm

    While this sounds great, UAV’s have, I think, two flavors; Automatous and Remotely Piloted. If Tesla keeps killing folks with its 2D automatous control software what the heck makes anyone think software working in three dimensions will be any better? Yeah, and let’s let it fire missiles and drop bombs, too.

    As to remotely piloted, the bad guys can already disrupt GPS and probably GLONASS (Russian GPS) what makes anyone think that the Chinese do not have the ability to disrupt the sig from the pilots in Florida? After all, we just gave them the most suffocated comms gear DOD and CIA have in three warehouses at Bagram Airbase and they have very good anti-SAT missiles.

  6. R. Kirk

    September 23, 2021 at 3:59 pm

    You and Phil hit it right on the head.

    R. Kirk

  7. Gorgi

    September 24, 2021 at 5:01 pm

    Today’s demand to confront the Chinese an others, aerial MUST be equipped with weapon systems of Laser Non Miss Trigger (LNMT) in which I can a major contributor of such achievements for our country. God bless USA.

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