A new Boeing hypersonic aircraft concept could act as a spiritual successor to the Mach 3 SR-71 Blackbird, a report from Popular Mechanics reveals.
Boeing revealed a model and an artist's rendering of the concept delta-wing jet at the AIAA SciTech aerospace forum this week.
Boeing's 'Valkyrie II' concept
The strike and reconnaissance aircraft could, in theory, fly at five times the speed of sound. That's thanks to a "waverider" configuration that would see the aircraft use its own shock waves produced during flight to increase lift and reduce drag.
According to Aviation Week, Boeing has internally named the aircraft "Valkyrie II", though Boeing has yet to reveal any substantial official information, and the aircraft is very much in the concept stage.
Four years after first unveiling its hypersonic airliner concept at #AIAASciTech 2018 @Boeing has revealed a refined, more realistic Mach 5 reusable air-breathing design targeting military and space launch roles at @aiaa San Diego event pic.twitter.com/CtpxA5OJGn— Guy Norris (@AvWeekGuy) January 4, 2022
Valkyrie II is an evolution of Boeing's 2018 concept, called Valkyrie, for a hypersonic passenger airliner that could travel between London and New York in just two hours. The hypersonic concept draws comparisons to Lockheed Martin's own SR-72 project, which would be the literal successor to its SR-71 Blackbird.
Both Lockheed Martin and Boeing's designs utilize a combined-cycle engine to reach speeds of Mach 3 before switching to a dual ramjet to accelerate to hypersonic speed. Lockheed Martin has partnered with Aerojet Rocketdyne to develop an engine, while Boeing has a partnership in place with Orbital ATK.
Racing to go hypersonic
Lockheed Martin's SR-72, or "Son of Blackbird", could make its first test flight in 2025 and it is expected to reach speeds of Mach 6, or 4,603 mph (7.400 kph). The SR-71 Blackbird is the fastest crewed aircraft in history, though it was retired by the U.S. Air Force in 1998. The SR-72 and Boeing's new hypersonic concept craft, on the other hand, will likely be uncrewed aircraft.
China's hypersonic capabilities recently made headlines when the country launched a hypersonic missile with "an advanced space capability" that took U.S. officials by surprise. In July last year, meanwhile, the U.S. Air Force granted a startup called Hermeus a $60 million contract to build a prototype aircraft within the next three years with the capacity to travel at speeds of Mach 5 using only one engine.