The dream of a hypersonic aircraft three times faster than Concorde is one step closer to becoming a reality.
Lockheed Martin has said it’s close to making a breakthrough in developing a military plane that can fly at Mach 6 – six times the speed of sound.
The Maryland-based company’s boss has also revealed the firm is working on a laser weapon that is expected to be deployed next year.
Marillyn Hewson said Lockheed’s engineers are on the verge of making technology such as scramjet engines, which have been talked about for years, a workable reality, The FT reported.
They work by burning fuel in a stream of air compressed by the forward speed of the aircraft itself, as opposed to a normal jet engine in which fan blades compress the air.
Orlando Carvalho, head of Lockheed’s aeronautics division, told journalists at the company’s annual media day that firm has collaborated with rocket manufacturer Aerojet Rocketdyne for the scramjet technology and that engineers are making ‘much more rapid’ progress than before.
He did, however, admit a significant amount of development work and investment lies ahead, with the aircraft predicted to enter service in the 2030s.
Ms Hewson said: ‘We’re proving a hypersonic aircraft can be produced at an affordable price.’
‘We estimate it [the hypersonic aircraft] will cost less than $1bn to develop, build and fly a demonstrator aircraft the size of an F-22.’
The F22 is Lockheed’s most sophisticated fighter jet.
Rumours of tests for a secret hypersonic aircraft developed for the US military, codenamed Aurora, have been circulating for years.
In 2014, numerous people reported mysterious loud bangs in Croydon and Buffalo, Cheektowaga, Clarence and Niagara Falls in the US, with Dr Bhupendra Khandelwal, an engineering research associate from Sheffield, claiming they were created by a type of experimental jet engine.
Conspiracy theorists say Aurora has been under development since 1989 and could reach Mach 11.8.
However, there is no suggestion the ‘bangs’ came from Lockheed’s SR-72, which the firm has previously said has been in the works since at least 2013.
The hypersonic SR-72, will have a so-called ‘warm structure’ – it will heat up rather than reflect the heat using the sort of ceramic tiles that covered the Space Shuttle.
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