Spy plane technology is poised to take a massive leap forward in speed. Lockheed Skunk Works is developing a new hypersonic spy plane to replace the SR-71 Blackbird. The proposed SR-72 will fly at twice the speed of the SR-71, reaching Mach 6. It could potentially even fly unmanned.
In order to exceed the current speed record of Mach 3.3, the new plane will include a scramjet, which mixes super-compressed air with fuel to reach supersonic speeds. A regular jet engine (sharing an air intake) will be used for take-off and traveling at speeds less than Mach 3.
Although primarily designed for surveillance, there are plans to provide a strike capability. According to an Aviation Week article, launching missiles at Mach 6 would eliminate the need for a booster, which could reduce the weight of the weaponry. You can read more about the company’s plans for hypersonic weaponry here.
Lockheed is targeting 2023 for a demonstration of the SR-72. The high-speed weaponry could exist as a prototype as early as 2018.
Source: Aviation Week