Boeing a few days ago introduced an incredible concept design for a spy plane that may ultimately replace the iconic and legendary SR-71 spy plane. Dubbed the Son of BlackBird, Boeing’s creation is a hypersonic beast capable of traveling at five times the speed of sound, or 3,863 MPH to be more specific. As a point of contrast, the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet has a maximum speed of 1,200 mph.
Though just a concept for the time being, the design is based on more than 20 years of knowledge gleaned from projects such as NASA’s experimental X-43 hypersonic aircraft, which, interestingly enough, currently holds the record for being the fastest aircraft in history after reaching a speed of Mach 9.6, or 7,310 MPH.
At this point, there’s no telling if and when the Son of BlackBird will ever see the light of day. In a best case scenario, the concept design will become an actual aircraft sometime in the late 2020s. All the same, Boeing does have some competition as Lockheed is currently working on its own concept designs for a hypersonic aircraft.
All that aside, the technology and testing required to make a plane as fast as the Son of Blackbird a reality is immense, to say the least.
“It’s a really hard problem to develop an aircraft that takes off and accelerates through Mach 1 all the way to Mach 5 and beyond,” Boeing chief scientist for hypersonics told Aerospace Daily & Defense Report a few days ago. “The specific impulse of an air breathing engine goes down with increasing velocity, so you have to make the engine bigger to get to Mach 5. But doing that means a bigger inlet and a bigger nozzle, and trying to get that through Mach 1 is harder.”
A scale model of the design can be seen below.
— Guy Norris (@AvWeekGuy) January 10, 2018