I’m giddy about this. The SR-71 has always been my favorite aircraft. To see plans for a replacement after such a long retirement is really exciting. A couple things here stood out to me.
“The high-speed turbine engine was the one technical issue remaining. Frankly, they just weren’t ready,” recalls Leland. This left the Skunk Work designers with a familiar problem: how to bridge the gap between the Mach 2.5 maximum speed of current-production turbine engines and the Mach 3-3.5 takeover speed of the ramjet/scramjet. “We call it the thrust chasm around Mach 3,” he adds.
The engineers at Skunk Works have apparently bridged this “thrust chasm.” That is a massive engineering feat.
The FRV [flight research vehicle] would start in 2018 and fly in 2023. “We would be ready to launch the SR-72 shortly after and could be in service by 2030,” Leland says.
These timelines are huge. I can’t imagine that there’s a lot of companies with products under development that they are planning to release in 17 years at the soonest.
I can’t wait for this.