Boeing has released a concept model of its new hypersonic jet. The aircraft manufacturer is locked in a fierce battle with Lockheed Martin to develop the next generation fighter jet that will replace the SR-71 Blackbird which was retired in 1998.
Although out of service, the Blackbird still holds the record for the fastest plane ever built. The jet could reach top speeds of 3,540 kmh (2,200 mph). The two aviation giants are now racing to build a plane that can reach beyond Mach 5 (6,171 kmh/3,835 mph). Boeing's latest offering might do just that.
Boeing's futuristic offering
Boeing released a model of their proposed hypersonic aircraft at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ SciTech Forum in Florida last week. The plane hasn’t yet been approved for full-scale development but Boeing is confident this concept is a feasible design. Lockheed Martin is developing a Blackbird replacement in collaboration with the U.S. Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Their version of the fighter jet has a tentative release date of 2030 but recent Google Earth images show that a full-size aircraft may be further along in development than expected. The satellite images that appear to show the US Air Force’s top-secret spy plane was discovered by YouTuber Tyler Glockner who uploaded the screenshots to his channel which quickly went viral.
He says the photos were taken above an aerospace company which has a “main foothold in designing aircraft engines that are widely used in civilian and military aviation”. The image clearly shows an unusually shaped plane sitting close to buildings at the airbase. The pointed outline shows a striking resemblance to the SR-72 which is a hypersonic jet currently in development. An artist's impression of the yet to be released jet shows a futuristic looking aircraft with a distinctive nose and wing shapes.
The fighter jet is reportedly able to hit any target around the world in under 60 minutes. Tyler describes his curiosity about the shape on his channel: “What you’re seeing is a very mysterious object. I haven’t been able to find out what this is. It is no public aircraft that has been disclosed. You can see that this thing looks like a hypersonic aircraft or spacecraft."
Lockheed Martin says hypersonic travel will change warfare
While fairly little is known about the future fighter jet, Brad Leland from Lockheed Martin, said earlier this year: “Hypersonic aircraft, coupled with hypersonic missiles, could penetrate denied airspace and strike at nearly any location across a continent in less than an hour. Speed is the next aviation advancement to counter emerging threats in the next several decades. The technology would be a game-changer in theatre, similar to how stealth is changing the battlespace today."