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USAF Developing New "SR-72" Supersonic Spy? 428

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the next-comes-high-altitude-flak-cannons dept.
Kadin2048 writes "According to an Air Force Times article, the famed Lockheed Martin 'Skunk Works' may be hard at work on a new supersonic spy plane (with 'artist concept') for the U.S. military, to replace the SR-71 'Blackbird' retired a decade ago. Dubbed by some the SR-72, the jet would be unmanned and travel at about 4,000 MPH at as much as 100,000 feet, with 'transcontinental' range. Some have speculated that new high-speed spy planes could be a U.S. response to anti-satellite weapons deployed by China, in order to preserve reconnaissance capabilities in the event of a loss of satellite coverage. Neither the Air Force nor Lockheed Martin would comment on the program, or lack thereof."
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USAF Developing New "SR-72" Supersonic Spy?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @06:19PM (#19587441)
    Given the size of the thing, and the speed and height it flies at, that's going to look a lot like a missile. Might not be the best thing for an already paranoid enemy to see.
    • by moderatorrater (1095745) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @06:55PM (#19587879)
      If it's anything like the SR-71, it won't be an issue whether they see it or not, they'll just accelerate. The Blackbird was a horribly un-stealthy plane, seen from hundreds of miles away by radar. However, while they were shot at quite frequently, they were never destroyed by enemy fire because of their speed and altitude. If a new version is in the works and this isn't just the same rumor that's been passed around for years, then it could easily incorporate the same defense mechanism.
      • As in Mutually Assured Destruction, if the SR-72 were falsely interpreted as a nuclear missile. I doubt that would happen, but I believe that was the point of the "first post".
        • by gujo-odori (473191) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:36PM (#19589409)
          That was the point (although China Vs. the US or Russia in a nuclear shootout would not result in MAD, it would results in the US or Russia being mauled and China being utterly destroyed), but the AC was a complete tool, and so were those who modded him Insightful. The only kind of missile with a similar flight trajectory would be operating at a much lower altitude - say, 50 - 100 feet - and at subsonic speeds.

          An ICBM, unlike a cruise missile or an SR-71, has a very steep angle of ascent, and comes down pretty steeply, too, doesn't have much of a heat signature on the way down, and since most (or all?) of those held by the US and Russia have MIRV warheads, the things coming down will also be far, far smaller than an aircraft. A spy plane looks nothing like a missile on radar.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MadUndergrad (950779)
        What about laser weapons, though? They weren't nearly as advanced back when the 71 was flying, but (iirc) they can destroy satellites with them now. Wouldn't targeting a high-flying plane like the 72 be similar to hitting a satellite? I can't imagine the maneuverability would be very good at those speeds.
        • by moderatorrater (1095745) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @07:28PM (#19588271)
          Assuming such lasers exist, shooting down a satellite is much, much harder than hitting any airplane. The satellite has a known trajectory that doesn't change much over the course of weeks, making it very easy to plan exactly how to fire the laser. Also, a satellite will change a few degrees per second at most.

          On the other hand you have an aircraft traveling at mach 6. This requires you to accurately plot the trajectory, get the laser in place and aimed and firing for however long it needs to be concentrated on the same spot, all in a matter of minutes. Assuming the laser needs to be concentrated on the same spot for 1 second, the aircraft will have traveled nearly a mile. Not an easy task.
          • by Carbonite (183181)
            Assuming such lasers exist, shooting down a satellite is much, much harder than hitting any airplane.

            From the rest of your argument, I think you meant that shooting down a plane (with a laser) is much harder than hitting a satellite.
        • They meaning China (Score:2, Informative)

          by ascendant (1116807)

          but (iirc) they can destroy satellites with them now.

          You don't remember correctly.

          They used the lasers to light up the satellite, and smacked it down with a missile [slashdot.org] (kinetic).

          They also have the ability to blind some satellites cameras [defensetech.org] with lasers.

          They do not have the ability to destroy [wikipedia.org] satellites with lasers.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rsmoody (791160)
        Um, actually, the SR-71, for its time, was quite stealthy. The chines were constructed to reduce radar signature and it was coated with an early RAM material. About the only time you could see it well on radar was during a turn as the underside was poorly designed with regards to radar signature and would reflect a massive radar signature. Several of its accidentally stealthy characteristics are what brought on the interest in the creation of Have Blue, the predecessor to the F-117. They correctly deduc
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          According to the wikipedia article, it would have been stealthy if it weren't for the fact that it was going so darn fast and so hot that they could see it from hundreds of miles away and it appeared to be the largest thing in the sky. While it had some stealthy parts, it was horrible at it in practice.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by icegreentea (974342)
      apparently its almost impossible to make something that fast stealthy, as the gas shooting out of it is superheated to the point where it actually reflects radar. thus, they're going to detect a couple hundred mile long radar contact moving at speeds lower than a ballistic missle, and in a non ballistic path.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rogerborn (236155)
      One. It is not the SR-72. It is not even the SR-75 or the 79. Those designations are already being used for other vehicles. Nor is it likely called the AM-11 or the A-17, nor even the 'Stealth Triangle.' To the rest of us, its designation is unknown.

      Two. It does not generate heat through the atmosphere, nor does it require 'fuel' in the normal sense.

      Three. It is not exactly stealthy, since it 'glows' somewhat at night. However, due to its tremedous speed and its operating silence, it still maintains an elem
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by digitalchinky (650880)
        Now I'm all for conspiracy theories and the intrigue of a good old spy thriller, but here's the rub. I spent a decade in the military, then a bit more working as a civilian for the department of defense, the entire time I held a TS security clearance and had access to perhaps far more than I should have - mostly because I'm a curious little bastard. That said, never once did I come across the public release of information for specific hardware simply because there was better equipment in the pipeline. As cl
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by WED Fan (911325)

      Google has been flying this thing for photo recon already. How the hell do you think they get those shots of women with those ever lovely thong handles?

  • A few comments... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Valdez (125966) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @06:28PM (#19587567)

    The new jet -- being referred to by some as the SR-72 -- is likely to be unmanned and, while intended for reconnaissance, could eventually trade its sensors for weapons.
    I'd be interested to see what kind of weapon they're planning to pop out the bottom of this thing @ Mach 6. Doesn't seem like a terribly bright idea...

    Second, friction at high speeds could reduce stealth.
    At some point, you don't need the stealth, because by the time anyone realizes you're coming and gets some sort of weapon 100k ft into the air, you'll probably have already landed.

    I hate to state the obvious, but the article is pretty sensational... I can summarize:

    Cower before our unmanned 6000mph stealthy black aircraft! If the Mach 6 shockwave doesn't get you, the nuclear handgrenades it carries will!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ravenshrike (808508)
      Eh, I suppose it could have a hatch situated between the engines on the rear of the plane, but anything it would drop would be extremely small an realatively very light as they wouldn't want to weigh down the plane any more than necessary. All in all, a very inefficient way to go dropping ordinance on people.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Martin Blank (154261)
      There's work being done on lasers that are eventually intended for mounting under the F-35, so it may not be that much of a stretch to see one or two of those mounted in something like this. I don't know how badly 20 miles of atmosphere would attenuate the beam, but if it's for surgical strikes against soft targets (where a soft target could even be relatively heavily armored, but not under 30 feet of reinforced concrete), such a pinpoint ability could be exceedingly valuable in hitting targets in urban ar
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sconeu (64226)
        You've still got to worry about dwell time. It's not enough just to hit the target for a fraction of a second, you have to hold on target long enough to pump enough joules into it to do damage.
    • No weapon. It's a reconnaissance craft.

      At 4000 mph, it would be able to outrun any anti-aircraft missile.

    • by magarity (164372)
      I'd be interested to see what kind of weapon they're planning to pop out the bottom of this thing @ Mach 6. Doesn't seem like a terribly bright idea...

      A metal dart like a large version of a tank sabot round. The kinetic energy at that speed is nuts - the explosive power is like a small nuclear explosion. This is what was proposed for a bomber version of the SR71 back in the 60's but the generals at the time wanted 'real' explosives from a 'real' bomber so the taxpayers got fine worthwhile program
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by afidel (530433)
        Valkyrie was worth it just to make the most beautiful airplane of all time. If you've ever seen it in person at WPAFB you'd know what I mean.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TFloore (27278)
      At some point, you don't need the stealth, because by the time anyone realizes you're coming and gets some sort of weapon 100k ft into the air, you'll probably have already landed.

      The thing about high speed is that you don't turn very quickly. So when a radar site sees you, they notify the SAM battery 400 miles downrange of your track, and the missiles are on the way up to meet you when you get there.

      And the missiles are fast enough now to catch you, too.

      This is why the SR-71 was retired from reconnaissance
  • by Skreech (131543) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @06:29PM (#19587575)
    I already have an SR-72.

    http://www.apogeerockets.com/SR72_Darkbird_Kit.asp [apogeerockets.com]

    It doesn't go 4,000mph, though. It just sits there. I think I was ripped off.
    • ARTHUR [sacred-texts.com]: Go and tell your master that we have been charged by God with a sacred quest. If he will give us food and shelter for the night he can join us in our quest for the Holy Grail.
      GUARD: Well, I'll ask him, but I don't think he'll be very keen... Uh, he's already got one, you see?
    • by feronti (413011)
      Heh. I've got that one too... need to get around to flying it though. And I don't think Tim Van Milligan was ever expecting a slashdotting:) Reminds me I need to get back to building and flying... been working too hard.
  • RS-71 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by narced (1078877) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @06:32PM (#19587615) Journal
    I'm sure a lot of you guys already know this, but for those that don't...

    The SR-71 Blackbird was originally named the RS-71, but it was renamed when Lyndon Johnson accidentally rearranged the letters during his 1964 announcement of the existence of the SR-71 (which he was supposed to call RS-71). Anyway... airplane history for ya'll.
    • Re:RS-71 (Score:5, Informative)

      by Napoleon The Pig (228548) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @06:43PM (#19587743)
      Not quite...
      "Conventional" wisdom now says that then president Lyndon B. Johnson messed up the designation in his public announcement and called it the SR-71 - and nobody wanted to correct the president. Because the strike mission had been cancelled anyway, "SR" was quickly reinterpreted as "Strategic Reconnaissance". However, a first-hand witness of those events recently revealed in Aviation Week & Space Technology, that LBJ did not misread anything. In fact, then USAF Chief of Staff LeMay simply didn't like the "RS" designator - he already objected it when the RS-70 was discussed, preferring "SR-70". When the RS-71 was to be announced, he wanted to make sure it would be called SR-71 instead. He managed to have LBJ's speech script altered to show "SR-71" in all places. Using archived copies of LBJ's speech, it can actually be verified that it reads SR-71 both in the script and on the tape recording. However, the official transcript of the speech, created from the stenographic records and handed to the press afterwards, shows "RS-71" in three places. It seems that not the president but a stenographer did accidentally switch the letters, and thus create a famous aviation "urban legend".
      http://www.designation-systems.net/usmilav/nonstan dard-mds.html#_MDS_SR71 [designation-systems.net]
    • Re:RS-71 (Score:5, Informative)

      by boster (124383) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @06:44PM (#19587761)
      According to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

      Name and designation

      The USAF had planned to redesignate the A-12 aircraft as the B-71 as the successor to the B-70 Valkyrie. The B-71 would have a nuclear capability of 3 first-generation SRAM's (Short-Range Attack Missiles). The next designation was RS-71 (Reconnaissance-Strike) when the strike capability became an option. However, then USAF Chief of Staff Curtis LeMay preferred the SR (Strategic Reconnaisance) designation and wanted the RS-71 to be named SR-71. Before the Blackbird was to be announced by President Johnson on 29 February 1964, LeMay lobbied to modify Johnson's speech to read SR-71 instead of RS-71. The media transcript given to the press at the time still had the earlier RS-71 designation in places, creating the myth that the president had misread the plane's designation.[1][2]
    • Sorry, no dyslexia for LBJ :)

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SR-71_Blackbird#Name _ and_designation [wikipedia.org]

      USAF Chief of Staff Curtis LeMay preferred the SR (Strategic Reconnaisance) designation and wanted the RS-71 to be named SR-71. Before the Blackbird was to be announced by President Johnson on 29 February 1964, LeMay lobbied to modify Johnson's speech to read SR-71 instead of RS-71. The media transcript given to the press at the time still had the earlier RS-71 designation in places, creating the myth tha
  • When they SR-71 was retired, they claimed it was no longer necessary as satellites could do the job. I assumed they had a replacement aircraft in place.
    • If they really thought that satellites were good enough, they probably changed their thinking once China starting shooting them down [slashdot.org].
    • When they SR-71 was retired, they claimed it was no longer necessary as satellites could do the job. I assumed they had a replacement aircraft in place.

      Naaw, c'mon, the Air Force stopped designing secret planes after the F117A was unveiled. That makes all kinds of sense, doesn't it? ;)

      (BTW, it's about time, guys, to juice up some airshows with some new hotness!)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    that's clearly a submarine. And at 4000MPH, a flaming fast submarine too!
  • New Name (Score:5, Interesting)

    by El Torico (732160) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @06:44PM (#19587767)
    I was wondering when they'd have an official designation for Aurora [abovetopsecret.com].
  • Necessary? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by T-Bucket (823202)
    Is this really even necessary? Un-mothball a couple SR-71s. Is there even anything that can bring one of those down?
    • by vertinox (846076)
      Is there even anything that can bring one of those down?

      Energy based weapons?

      I mean, if they can knock a MIRV out of orbit then they can knock a SR-71 out of the sky.

      Of course that would depend if the Russians or Chinese had such a system.
    • by siddesu (698447)
      how bout software bugs? the same kind that put the brakes on the F22 as discussed here: http://it.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/02/25/203 8217 [slashdot.org]
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Have a look at the Russian S-300 family of SAMs (NATO SA-10 GRUMBLE/SA-12 GLADIATOR and successors). Max engagement altitude is ~100k ft, and top speed is in excess of Mach 6. The SR-71 lives near the edge of the S-300's engagement envelope, but it's close enough to be a real hazard, and the S-300s are pretty widely deployed. It's at least as much of a threat as the SA-2 GUIDELINE represented to the U-2.
  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @06:55PM (#19587877)
    • No joke. (Score:3, Insightful)


      Seriously.

      The SR-71 is easily the baddest mofo of any item in either the Smithsonian's downtown Air & Space or Air & Space II in the big hangar out by the airport [which is where the SR-71 sits, right smack in the middle of the floor, dominating everything else around it].

      Badder than the Wright Bros' biplane, badder than Lindbergh's Spirit of St Louis, badder than Apollo 11, badder than the Space Shuttle.

      Just one great big Samuel Jackson Pulp Fiction Bad Mofo of an airplane.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jjk3 (812808)
        I personally think the Enterprise trumps the SR-71, but there is no denying the bad assness of the last flight of that SR-71.

        According to the Smithsonian - http://www.nasm.si.edu/aircraft/lockheed_sr71.htm [si.edu]

        "On March 6, 1990, the service career of one Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird ended with a record-setting flight. This special airplane bore Air Force serial number 64-17972. Lt. Col. Ed Yeilding and his RSO, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Vida, flew this aircraft from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. in 1 hour, 4 mi

  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @07:01PM (#19587945)
    Except there was never any suggestion that Aurora [wikipedia.org] was "crew optional". Nothing solid provided by the article, but no one should be surprised if it turns out to be true.
  • by popo (107611) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @07:02PM (#19587953) Homepage
    ... its SeaQuest DSV!
  • *I* heard it was going to be used by Gooogle to do the next run of Street views...

    1. supersonic stealth spy plane
    2. Google Streets
    3. ???
    4. Profit!
  • by Thaelon (250687) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @07:14PM (#19588109)
    If the headline ends in a question mark, it's not news.
  • Ok, so... (Score:3, Informative)

    by jd (1658) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @07:19PM (#19588163) Homepage Journal
    They are probably building a waverider [aerodyn.org] that uses a ramjet [onera.fr] (4,000 MPH is way way too slow for a scramjet) with some sort of launch [alt-accel.com] assist [sci-toys.com] mechanism - there are several they can choose. Though they could also use a turbine-assisted ramjet [nii.ac.jp] or variant. Again, there are several.

    Does it matter? Well, the first to build a working waverider aircraft was a Scottish amateur rocketry group. Story has it that when NASA and Boeing engineers saw footage of the vehicle flying, they were staring at the screen in sheer envy. They'd got no further than theory. We also all know the story of the New Zealander who has jet-propelled go-karts and his own low-cost cruise missile. And the Gauss Rifle linked to above didn't look too complex, either.

    Although amateurs are very unlikely to be building supersonic or hypersonic spy planes in the near future, none of this looks so complex that it could not be done by other nations in comparable time. Don't think it won't happen - too many potential benefits. Variants will also inevitably be adopted by commercial space planes, as it's so much cheaper than using vanilla rocketry and should be much more reliable.

    To me, the only question I think worth asking at this point is who will be there first? Lockheed-Martin, China or Rutan? (And after Lockheed's disastrous hovering shuttle replacement in the late 1990s, it's not wise to just assume they'll automatically win such a race.)

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by drgould (24404)
      (And after Lockheed's disastrous hovering shuttle replacement in the late 1990s, it's not wise to just assume they'll automatically win such a race.)

      I think you're confusing the hovering McDonnell Douglas DC-X [wikipedia.org] (which was a successful test vehicle until NASA got ahold of it) and the Shuttle replacement Lockheed Martin X-33 [wikipedia.org] (which was a diaster).
    • by AK Marc (707885)
      I imagine it would be hard (everything at those speeds is hard) but what about a convertible engine? All a turbojet is is a ramjet with a compressor on the front. All a scramjet is is a ramjet where the internal air speeds never drop below supersonic. So, come up with a design where the turbine blades turn completely perpendicular to the flow of air and the turbine stops and the thing becomes a ramjet. Or have smaller turbojet engines that retract and a scramjet engine that kicks in at supersonic speeds
  • We've known it's been in the works for a while. Several interim projects were specifically to test portions of the technology, such as the pure evil on the wing looking Bird of Prey (http://www.boeing.com/news/releases/2002/q4/nr_0 2 1018m.html). The SR 72 design (often called Darkbird, though that's not official) is pretty much frozen. Air Force Times has an artists' rendering which is probably pretty close to the final result (http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2007/06/airforc e_sr72_070617/)
    • There are spaces in OP's URLs, so they don't work (not to mention they're not links). I'm a kindly soul with time to kill, so here [boeing.com] is the Boeing link, and here [airforcetimes.com] is the Air Force Times link.
  • by 192939495969798999 (58312) <info@devinm o o r e .com> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @07:41PM (#19588395) Homepage Journal
    the SR-71 is a famous example of something very advanced remaining classified for a long time. By the time the public saw them, they were practically retired. I'd guess that this vehicle exists now in classified form, and by 2020 we'll "officially" know they've built and flown them.
    • by geekoid (135745)
      Funny how you could get mattel model of them for years before the public 'knew about them'.
      Same with the stealth fighter.

      I suspect mattel pays someone to spy no the military...or someone in the military is using mattel as their road path.
  • I don't care... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by serviscope_minor (664417) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @07:52PM (#19588531) Journal
    I don't care if there are better solutions or if it's expensive or bad for the environment or whatever. The engineer in me just thinks that the SR-71 was too cool to be taken out of service. I look forward to the SR-72.
  • But wait... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by joe_kull (238178)
    If it's intended as a satellite-replacement in case of reconnaissance satellites being destroyed by ASAT weaponry, wouldn't there be some issues in remotely controlling an aircraft with "transcontinental" range without relying on communications satellites that would also presumably be destroyed by the point this aircraft is needed?
  • Classified (Score:5, Funny)

    by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @08:13PM (#19588725) Journal
    FTFA:

    "As a matter of policy, we don't talk about classified programs -- whether or not they exist," Lockheed's Tom Jurkowsky said.
    If the program doesn't exist, how can it be classified? Or has the military classified everything that doesn't exist?

    I'm confused.
  • by Deadstick (535032) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @08:59PM (#19589133)
    from the next-comes-high-altitude-flak-cannons dept.

    Redundant. Flak is a German-style contraction for Flugabwehrkanone, anti-aircraft cannon.

    Guess that makes me a German Nazi...

    rj

  • by gorehog (534288) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:11PM (#19589633)
    From the article...

    A new Mach-6 reconnaissance jet being developed for the Air Force would offer a combination of speed, altitude and stealth that could make it virtually impervious to ground-based missiles, sources said.
    My response? Francis Gary Powers. Goodnight Folks, you've been a wonderful crowd.
  • by MtViewGuy (197597) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:01PM (#19589911)
    I wonder does anyone remember Project Tagboard, the Lockheed D-21 unmanned drone that could fly at around 2,700 mph to fly a pre-programmed course before ejecting its camera pack? While the idea worked it was not a paragon of reliability and the project was cancelled in 1971.

    However, thanks to technology improvements since then, this new drone could probably work, thanks to better materials, fly-by-wire systems, and GPS navigation for more precise control of flight path. It would probably be launched off modified B-52 bombers like the D-21 drone.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      The D-21 had problems being launched from A-12 aircraft at supersonic speed, Kelly Johnson was quoted as saying it was "the most dangerous maneuver we have ever been involved in, in any airplane I have ever worked on."

      Launching from a B-52 using a booster rocket to accelerate to the speed needed to start the drone's ramjet engine was another option. One problem there was that the radar signature of a D-21 launch looked a very similar to the launch of a Hound Dog missle so there was concern that somebody

  • by cojsl (694820) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @12:05AM (#19590333) Homepage
    In the excellent "Skunk Works" about Lockheed Martin's special projects division, Ben Rich discusses the problem of masking the heat signature from air friction against the airframe of a plane flying Mach 6, saying it would show up like a meteor to a thermal detector. At that speed you can't shoot it down, but the observed can detect it thermally. I recall that he said they put additives in the SR-71's fuel to reduce the heat signature of its exhaust.
    It seems that the U2 and SR-71 overflights may have had a calming effect on US military actions, as they allowed the US to better understand the USSR's level of alert, and prevented overreaction to a false belief that the USSR may have been massing for an attack.
  • SA-12 aka S-300 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by theolein (316044) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @05:27AM (#19591883) Journal
    I'm not so sure that this craft will be invulnerable to surface to air missiles such as the S-300V (SA-12b) [wikipedia.org] fielded by Russia, China and India. The SA-12b has a range of between 100 and 200 km and a speed of 2.4km/s (Mach 7.24) and is known to have a limited anti-ballistic missile capability. Any craft travelling at mach 6 is not going to be very manoeuvrable (less than a missile in any case) and if it were to come in range of the SAMs would very likey be shot down. It is also an interesting coincidence that the SR-71 was slowly retired as later variants of the S-300 became operational as it would have made intercepts possible even over international waters where the SR-71 usually operated (The limits of view at 80 000 feet altitude is about 640km so there good information could be gathered without endangering the crew and craft, and satellites could actually get closer to the target than the SR-71 could), but you can be sure that the SR-71 was never operated over any area where there were active and hostile S-300s.

    That said, tracking a target at mach 6 is no easy task. If the plane deploys some stealth or good ecm it will be no easy target. But invulnerable I seriously doubt. In the same manner that Russia upgraded its S-27 Topol M ICBM to manoeuvre in order to make targeting by the US ABM interceptor missiles, I am pretty sure that both China and Russia would be able to develop a counter to the SR-72 relatively cheaply, probably by improving the S-300 system.

    I think the real use of a system such as this would be against countries like Iran, which the US fears is going to threaten Israel.
  • by rehtonAesoohC (954490) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @11:41AM (#19595565) Journal
    A lot of people in comments are claiming conspiracy about the Air Force and Lockheed Martin denying comment on the plane's existence or lack thereof. When someone says information is classified, it is not a confirmation or a denial of its existence... It simply means that any information someone might have about the possible existence of a theoretical super-plane is on a need-to-know basis. If the general public has a need to know (wouldn't happen unless it was something like Armageddon) then the general public will be informed.

    There's no need to immediately jump to "It's classified so it must exist." If that was the case, then ask any Air Force officer privy to classified information for info on that information. If you asked "Are there aliens at Area 51?" I guarantee you they'd respond with "That's classified." Same thing with "Is the Air Force testing prototype beam weapons?" Classified. I know that in this case, they simply denied comment, but the same principle applies. Saying nothing on the issue is not a confirmation of a person's suspicions.

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