Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Blackswift: The Ultimate Armed UAV?
Blackswift: Cost vs. capability
Officials, experts debate merits of armed, hypersonic ISR craft
By Nick Adde and Ben Iannotta - Special to the Times
Posted : Wednesday Sep 24, 2008 12:27:40 EDT
If Osama bin Laden turns up to order a cup of tea at an outdoor café, Mark Lewis, the Air Force’s chief scientist, wants to take him out before he can pay his check. The question is how.
Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles armed with Hellfire missiles won’t work unless a terrorist leader decides to sip tea where the U.S. has uncontested control of the airspace, which is where the relatively low-flying Reapers must travel. Cruise missiles, at least for now, are either too easy to shoot down or not fast enough.
The answer, Lewis said, might lie in winning political commitment to explore an unmanned, faster-flying successor to the retired SR-71 Blackbird to be called the SR-72.
Defense officials are still analyzing whether there would be a mission for an SR-72, but Lewis said he’s “pretty optimistic on its utility.” Either way, Lewis said he wants research to go forward. That would mean construction of a demonstration plane called Blackswift as a takeoff on the Blackbird.
At the moment, Blackswift consists of an artist’s rendering and some conceptual work completed by Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in California, builder of the SR-71. In 2004, the Pentagon hired Skunk Works to build a series of hypersonic test aircraft, and, as part of that effort, engineers drew up plans for the Hypersonic Technology Vehicle-3X, a proposed Blackswift demonstration plane.
Read the full story at airforcetimes.com
Posted by Steve Douglass at 7:51 PM