The Extreme Tech website reports that

Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works has confirmed that it is developing the SR-72 spy plane. The successor to the SR-71 Blackbird, which was capable of Mach 3.5, the SR-72 will be a hypersonic unmanned aircraft capable of Mach 6, or just over 4,500 mph.

The article goes on to say it will be unmanned, with the full scale vehicle built & tested by 2030.

It's not that I would ever doubt Extreme Tech or the author of this story (cough, cough), but it seems odd that news of an SR-72 project isn't being far more widely reported.

Are there any other sources reporting this new project, or is Extreme Tech the only one?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_Martin_SR-72 $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Sep 15, 2015 at 15:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Related: aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/20869/… $\endgroup$
    – ROIMaison
    Sep 15, 2015 at 15:15
  • $\begingroup$ The article is a few years old by the way. So nobody would be reporting this right now. (Not a comment about the truth or otherwise of the story though.) $\endgroup$
    – Andy
    Sep 15, 2015 at 15:17
  • $\begingroup$ How is whether other sources have reported this "opinion-based?" Clearly they have, including Lockheed Martin itself. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Sep 15, 2015 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ dont forget, it might be secret? jokes aside. $\endgroup$ Jan 18, 2023 at 6:31

2 Answers 2


Yes, the SR-72 project has indeed been officially announced. Lockheed confirmed it to Aviation Week back in 2013. Apparently it actually did get quite a bit of attention at the time, enough to actually cause Aviation Week's servers to go down for a while after the announcement.

The source quoted in the question is correct that Lockheed's announcement did confirm that the SR-72 would be hypersonic:

But now Lockheed Martin believes it has the answer. “The Skunk Works has been working with Aerojet Rocketdyne for the past seven years to develop a method to integrate an off-the-shelf turbine with a scramjet to power the aircraft from standstill to Mach 6 plus,” says Brad Leland, portfolio manager for air-breathing hypersonic technologies.

Also, from Lockheed Martin's own website, confirming both the Mach 6 capability and the intention for it having at least the option of flying unmanned:

Envisioned as an unmanned aircraft, the SR-72 would fly at speeds up to Mach 6, or six times the speed of sound.

According to Lockheed, a technology demonstrator aircraft may be flying by 2018:

Lockheed has run scaled tests on components. “The next step would be to put it through a series of tests or critical demonstrations,” Leland says. “We are ready for those critical demonstrations, and we could be ready to do such a demonstration aircraft in 2018. That would be the beginning of building and running complete critical demonstrations. As of now, there are no technologies to be invented. We are ready to proceed—the only thing holding us back is the perception that [hypersonics] is always expensive, large and exotic.”

Here's a rendering of the proposed design from the SR-72 Wikipedia page:
enter image description here
Source: Wikipedia, which apparently took it from Lockheed's website.

Lockheed was recently awarded a grant from NASA to study the viability of their proposed combination turbine/ramjet engine solution for the SR-72.

Task Order No.NNC15TA03T provides for a parametric design study to establish the viability of a Turbine Based Combined Cycle (TBCC) Propulsion system consisting of integrating several combinations of near-term turbine engine solutions and a very low Mach ignition Dual Mode RamJet (DMRJ) in the SR-72 vehicle concept. Task Order NNC15TA03T is issued under Contract NNC10BA08B on a firm fixed price basis. Firm fixed price is $892,292.


Lockheed Martin is developing a lot of stuff

That's kind of the point of the skunkworks - do lots of R&D in lots of areas (even if you don't finish most/all projects) so that you're ready to respond quickly to whatever challenge comes up next.

That said, an SR-72 is pretty unlikely - who needs a high speed, stealthy recon aircraft when you have satellites?

It is in development/under research, as a response to potential anti-satellite weapons. But it is almost certainly a top-secret, classified project....why would it be widely reported on? There will be very little information available, and any reports would likely be shut down rapidly at source if they contained much more than speculation. The project exists, we know that, but we're unlikely to get any more information, and therefore there's nothing much to say in a report

  • $\begingroup$ Your last two sentences seem to be quite contradicted by reirab's answer. There probably aren't too many accurate and precise specifications available, but the general info seems to be readily available. I agree completely with everything else you've said. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Sep 15, 2015 at 15:37
  • $\begingroup$ A very good point, adjusted to take that into account. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Story
    Sep 15, 2015 at 15:38
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    $\begingroup$ I wasn't saying that being classified means the publication will be stopped... simply that there will be very little information available to report on. Certainly if there was a leak there would be reports. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Story
    Sep 15, 2015 at 15:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Andy You can also get way better resolution photography from an airplane than from a satellite. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Sep 15, 2015 at 15:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Andy: That's not necessarily true. At low inclinations and low height, you could have more than a dozen passes. The major reason that's not done is that there simply aren't any "interesting" countries around the equator. $\endgroup$
    – MSalters
    Sep 15, 2015 at 23:13

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