Lockheed Announces It’s Going to Build a Mach 6 Warplane
Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson announced on Tuesday that the aerospace company has made “several breakthroughs” on a hypersonic warplane that could reach Mach 6, known as the Hypersonic Test Vehicle 3X, or HTV-3X.
The growing research in hypersonic flight is part of the DARPA Falcon Project, an effort to develop hypersonic vehicles capable of performing airstrikes anywhere in the world within one hour, a military goal known as Prompt Global Strike (PGS).
In her statement at Lockheed Martin’s annual media day, Hewson discussed multiple hypersonic projects.
Lockheed Martin has a legacy of making fast aircraft, such as those in DARPA’s Hypersonic Test Vehicle programs.
We accomplished several breakthroughs on HTV-3X. And we’re now producing a controllable, low-drag, aerodynamic configuration capable of stable operation from take-off, to sub-sonic, trans-sonic, super-sonic, and hypersonic to Mach 6.
And most importantly, we’re proving a hypersonic aircraft can be produced at an affordable price. We estimate it will cost less than $1 billion dollars to develop, build, and fly a demonstrator aircraft the size of an F-22.
The other DARPA program, the HTV-2, has demonstrated robust and stable aerodynamically controlled flight at speeds greater than Mach 20.
The HTV-2 and HTV-3X are proposed unmanned transonic aircraft that could perform long-distance airstrikes. The HTV-2 has been part of two launch tests, but the HTV-3X program was put on hold due to budget shortages in 2008.
The HTV-2 is an experimental aircraft that is capable of achieving Mach 20 speeds, or about 13,000 miles per hour, after being launched on a rocket. Two HTV-2 launch tests were conducted, one in 2010 and one in 2011. After the second launch on a Minotaur IV rocket in 2011, the HTV-2 successfully hit speeds between Mach 17 and Mach 22 before crashing into the Pacific as a safety precaution.
The HTV-3X, referred to as Blackswift before the project stalled out in 2008, differs from the HTV-2 in that it would take off and land conventionally rather than be launched by rocket. The HTV-3X would be the size of a conventional fighter jet.
Lockheed is also working on a hypersonic spy plane that was announced in 2013. The SR-72 is designed to fly at Mach 6, twice as fast as Lockheed’s famous SR-71 Blackbird which was retired from military service in 1998. The 2013 announcement suggested that flight tests for the SR-72 could happen as soon as 2018.
It’s difficult to say when we might see flight tests for the HTV-3X, or what the “several breakthroughs” are that have encouraged Lockheed to return to the project after an eight-year hiatus. But clearly the Pentagon is committed to developing transonic flight for the military, and Lockheed has responded.
Source: Lockheed Martin via Fortune
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