Hypersonic Hypotheses Getting Real
The largely hypothetical hypersonic aircraft race appears to have become a lot more real at an academic forum in Florida last week. Boeing showed off a model of what it thinks a Mach 5 aircraft might look like and a Lockheed Martin official may have let it slip that his company has already built one. Both developments occurred at the Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SciTech Forum in Orlando, which had speakers on a variety of leading-edge esoteric topics that will define the design of future aircraft and spacecraft. In his speech, Jack O’Bannon of Lockheed Martin was talking about “digital transformation” and let it slip that his company’s potential replacement for the SR-71 “could not have been made” without the new technology. Lockheed Martin had, until that point, only spoken of the so-called SR-72 in the future tense. Coincidentally, a strange photo showed up first on conspiracy sites showing what some believe to be a hypersonic aircraft hiding in plain sight in a parking lot at a small Florida airport.
The object in the Google Earth image appears to be about 35 feet long and bears some resemblance to the concept drawings of Lockheed Martin’s SR-72 and the model unveiled by Boeing. However, the object has also been dismissed as a high-speed boat, among other things. Regardless of the alleged photographic evidence, there does appear to be concrete progress toward development of the replacement for the SR-71 and this aircraft has teeth. It will carry precision strike weapons where the Blackbird had only spy gear on board.