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.”
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.”