Boeing unveils its Mach 5+ ‘Son of Blackbird’ conceptual hypersonic jet design to replace the SR-71 Blackbird

Boeing unveils its Mach 5+ ‘Son of Blackbird’ conceptual hypersonic jet design to replace the SR-71 Blackbird

On Jan 11, 2018, Boeing unveiled a conceptual model for a new hypersonic jet that would replace the SR-71 Blackbird at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SciTech forum in Orlando.

This ‘Son of Blackbird’ could become a high-speed strike and reconnaissance aircraft in the warfare of the future, travelling at Mach 5+ speeds that adversaries would have no time to react or hide.

The speed of sound, Mach 1, is around 767mph (1,235kmh). Hitting Mach 5 would mean the new craft has to travel at an astonishing 3,836mph (6,174kmh).

Boeing unveils its Mach 5+ ‘Son of Blackbird’ conceptual hypersonic jet design to replace the SR-71 Blackbird

It is designed to carry out spy missions in the same way as the Blackbird SR-71, which was the world’s fastest and highest-flying operational manned aircraft throughout its career. In 1976  SR-71 set an absolute speed record of 2,193.2mph (3,529kmh) – a record it still holds today.

Related Article: SR-72 hyper-sonic Scram jet spy plane can cross the Atlantic at Mach 6 & can carry weapons

Boeing’s model design is similar to one Lockheed Martin is working on. The aerospace industry right now is racing to produce a hypersonic strike and reconnaissance aircraft to replace the famed SR-71 Blackbird.

The design is an early concept that’s not yet approved by Boeing for full-scale development. But the model, which shows a twin-tail, highly swept delta wing configuration, represents a feasible hypersonic design, Boeing’s head of hypersonic research told Aviation Week Aerospace Daily:

“We asked, ‘What is the most affordable way to do a reusable hypersonic demonstrator vehicle?’ And we did our own independent research looking at this question,” says Kevin Bowcutt, Boeing chief scientist for hypersonics. If the concept is selected for full-scale development, Boeing envisions a two-step process beginning with flight tests of an F-16-sized, single-engine proof-of-concept precursor vehicle leading to a twin-engine, full-scale operational vehicle with about the same dimensions as the 107-ft.-long SR-71.

Boeing unveils its Mach 5+ ‘Son of Blackbird’ conceptual hypersonic jet design to replace the SR-71 Blackbird

Boeing spokeswoman Sandra Angers told Business Insider in an emailed statement. “In that sense, it could be a future replacement for the SR-71.”

“It’s a conceptual model for an eventual demonstrator, but no one has committed to building a reusable hypersonic demonstrator yet,” Angers added. “We’re constantly looking to advance concept in technology areas that could someday be asked for by the customer.”

Boeing is one of the largest defence contractors and political donors in the US. Boeing’s conceptual design will have to take off and land on its own, which is much harder

Boeing will expand on research from its past X-43 and X-51 Waverider experimental aircraft, which were tests of unmanned hypersonic planes, as the company refines a new aircraft design. The X-51 broke the record for the sustained air-breathing hypersonic flight when it flew at Mach 5.1 for three and a half minutes before running out of fuel and crashing into the Pacific Ocean on May 1, 2013.

Lockheed Martin is also developing a successor to the SR-71 — the SR-72, which it expects to test in 2020.

Related Article: Lockheed Martin SR-72 Mach 6 Hypersonic strike aircraft

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  1. Why not Mach 8, or Mach 10?

  2. Hope they don’t skimp on safety features….

  3. Satellite technology, being what it is, would render this thing obsolete before it even rolls out. It’s a waste of taxpayer money…

    • Still need it even if it were possible to match resolutions. The plane could easily out perform any satellite and be more available.

    • As a reconnaissance source maybe, although planes are not limited by being in a particular orbit. They still dream of a bomber or strike plane not dependent on stealth because some still regard that as slow and sneaky and not macho enough.

    • Christopher BOLAM

      Satellites have very limited fuel meaning they tend to stick to very predictable orbital paths. They would only use that fuel to avoid a killer satellite in a conflict scenario or if there was a very important need to alter their orbit to spy on a site off the normal orbit. It makes sense to have a high speed aircraft/drone that can carry out high altitude/speed runs over points of interest. Now the SR71 is retired what is carrying out these missions.

  4. There’s plenty of evidence the US had the so-called “Aurora” deployed as a reconnaissance platform for the better part of the last decade so this seems more a shiny-lookie-here exercise that’ll be developed for bigger production plans later. Hypersonic strike aircraft in mass production 10 years from now?

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