SR-72 Darkstar, a "real Mach 10 plane"?

SR-72 Darkstar
SR-72 Darkstar—a "real Mach 10 plane"?

A new mockup of the SR-72 Darkstar espionage jet, made famous in the blockbuster film Top Gun: Maverick, was on display to more than 100,000 spectators at an air show in California (it hit Mach 10 in the movie). In October, at the Aerospace Valley Open House and Air Show at Edwards Air Force Base in California, the Hollywood version of the Darkstar sat next to the SR-71 Blackbird. Because the SR-72 is known as the "Son of Blackbird," the Darkstar program and Lockheed Martin Skunk Works were able to take advantage of a once-in-a-generation PR chance

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Although the SR-71 was a very fast and powerful aircraft in its day, the stealthy SR-72 may be able to achieve speeds of Mach 6 in the future, which is almost twice as fast as the SR-71. The Darkstar could be unmanned and have the same intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities as a spy plane. It could also be able to strike the ground.

Throw in the ability to travel at hypersonic speeds, and the United States Air Force has itself a very special aircraft. The ramjet-like properties of Lockheed's combined-cycle dual-mode engine have led to its widespread use. From liftoff until Mach 3, the turbine engine cycle produces thrust, and then the ramjet takes over to Mach 6. The goal is to get as far away as possible from opposing aircraft and air defenses.

The film's depiction of the Darkstar was designed by Skunk Works' engineers. Even though it was just a prop, word on the street in China was that everyone was excited to see it since it looked so real.

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Since 2013, Skunk Works has been developing and testing the SR-72's aircraft engines. The year 2030 may mark its maiden flight, with full Air Force deployment following a few years later.

Most likely autonomous, the unmanned bird might serve as a hypersonic bomber ahead of the B-21 Raider and F-35 Lightning II.

The Darkstar has Hollywood-level expectations and hopes

By the time the "Son of Blackbird" is ready for regular flights, there should be reliable hypersonic weapons. The Darkstar's Mach 6 speed necessitates the use of hypersonic weapons; hence, this need must be met.

There are other problems, like turning and opening the doors to the bomb bay, that will require the designers and engineers to think outside the box. The plane's design promises to be distinctive.

Military Factory's drawings for the SR-72 show that the plane has "underslung twin air intakes, thin low-mounted delta wing assemblies, and a single vertical tail fin."

All of the SR-72's electronics and controls will be in the fuselage, so it won't need a cockpit. The SR-71 could fly at an altitude of 85,000 feet, and the Blackbird could go even higher, possibly getting close to space.

Hollywood's excitement is great for the SR-72 program, but "Son of Blackbird" still needs a lot of work and a lot of money. Any given year could see delays and expense increases due to the hype.

Because the speed and altitude goals are so high, manned aircraft will need to have unmanned parts added to them.

But if both Congress and the Pentagon support the Darkstar, that could mean that a lot of people like the idea. The success of a film could have a real-world impact.

Dolph Nelson

Science and Technology enthusiast, obsessed with organic vegetables. He is intelligent and careful, but can also be very lazy and a bit grumpy.

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