|posted for opinion and commentary
Posted by Bill Sweetman at 6/11/2007 2:31 PM
Our competitors Defense News report that the Air Force has handed Lockheed's Skunk Works a contract to develop "a stealthy 4,000-mph plane capable of flying to altitudes of about 100,000 feet, with transcontinental range." The rest of the story is subscription-only.
If this sounds to you a lot like the "Aurora" stories of the early 1990s, you're right. However, early last year I had a conversation with a senior Skunk in which he talked about the company's proposal for a new high-speed, high-altitude X-plane.
The X-plane would be the size of a fighter and would be designed for a speed of Mach 6.5 -- 4300 mph -- at 100,000 feet. (The SR-71 Blackbird, retired in 1990, could manage up to Mach 3.3 in sprints at 85,000 feet). It would be powered by two jet engines -- bigger versions of the engine used on the Skunk Works' RATTLRS (Revolutionary Approach To Time-critical Long Range Strike) cruise missile -- integrated into ramjets.
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