It’s been a couple of decades since the 2,200mph Lockheed Martin SR-71 Blackbird spy plane was retired, and now its top-secret successor has been revealed: the SR-72, a hypersonic monster that will go twice as fast as its predecessor and even carry weapons. Scary stuff.
The SR-72 will be what the Air Force calls an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft, but it goes a step further — it’s also designated as a “strike platform,” able to rain down thermonuclear weapons (and who knows what else) from the edge of space.
Seems like a great Cold War weapon, doesn’t it? Wait a second, wasn’t the Cold War over in 1991? This looks to me like another military boondoggle.
However, the Skunk Works team at Lockheed Martin that’s designing the SR-72 says U.S. defense planners need thisobviously hyper-expensive aircraft. The planners say there are “growing gaps in coverage of fast reaction intelligence by the plethora of satellites, subsonic manned and unmanned platforms meant to replace the SR-71.” They say “increasingly mobile threats are emerging in areas of denied or contested airspace, in countries with sophisticated air defenses and detailed knowledge of satellite movements.”
Here’s a comparison of the SR-72 and its predecessor, the SR-71 Blackbird. Click for enlargement:
There’s no denying the coolness of this 4,567mph marvel, and once it’s perfected for military use, its technology might find its way to us lowly civilians. Heck, it could even make it so you could go from New York to London in less than an hour.
Even so, lavish projects like this go a long way in explaining why the total spending on defense in the United States was somewhere between $1.030 and $1.415 trillion in 2012. Perhaps this is a place to execute some budget cuts, rather than starving millions of children.