Military Review

Boeing vs Lockheed Martin. New hypersonic race

American aviation industry, represented by a number of leading companies, has long dealt with the topic of hypersonic aircraft and has already received certain results. In parallel with the testing of finished samples, companies are developing completely new projects. According to recent reports, the start of another project in this area could lead to competition. As a result, Lockheed Martin and Boeing will have to compete with each other.

Participants in the emerging "competition" can be two projects from leading US aircraft manufacturers. This is the project with the conditional name SR-72, created by the designers of "Lockheed-Martin" and the as yet unnamed project from Boeing. It should be noted that equal competition is not out. According to reports, the SR-72 project has already advanced quite far and reached flight tests, at least, of a prototype. The project of the Boeing company, in turn, is still in its earliest stages, involving the study of the overall appearance of the future aircraft.

Boeing vs Lockheed Martin. New hypersonic race
The first published image of the Lockheed Martin SR-72

Recall that the first mention of a promising project hypersonic aircraft under the brand name Lockheed Martin appeared in 2007 year. Then, at the level of rumors, the topic of the possible creation of a new aircraft, capable of developing the highest speed and suitable for solving various military tasks, was discussed. Among other things, such a machine could become a scout. The latter circumstance led to the appearance of the name SR-72, referring to the famous reconnaissance aircraft SR-71.

Over the next few years, the specialized press repeatedly published materials on the future hypersonic aircraft, but they were not based on official information. The situation changed only in the autumn of 2013, when a special section of the Lockheed-Martin company called Advanced Development Programs (aka Skunk Works) for the first time officially recognized the existence of a promising project called SR-72.

Having announced the existence of the project, the company-developer, however, did not publish the main features of the promising project. Aviation specialists and amateurs again had to rely solely on unofficial estimates and forecasts. However, later some requirements for the future aircraft were announced. In addition, images were published showing the overall appearance of the car.

Over the past years, the developer has clarified some of the provisions of the SR-72 project, which made it possible to form a more complete picture. Thus, it was argued that heat-resistant materials used in the construction of intercontinental ballistic missiles and Space Shuttle spacecraft would be used to combat high temperature loads in the airframe of the future aircraft. The glider will be built from ceramic, carbon-fiber and refractory metal parts. It is also possible to use some solutions that further reduce the load on the aircraft structure.

Even before the appearance of the first rumors about the development of the SR-72 project, it became known that Lockheed-Martin, in collaboration with other organizations, is studying the subject of hypersonic direct-flow jet engines. A few years later, this program was closed, but the new aircraft was not left without a power plant. According to later data, the future intelligence officer will be equipped with combined engines with a turbojet and direct-flow part. Similar engines were previously used on SR-71 aircraft.

According to the published data, the promising hypersonic aircraft will be able to reach speeds of the order of M = 6 (about 6400 km / h) and rise to an altitude of 24-25 km. It is expected that such flight characteristics will make the aircraft invulnerable for modern air defense systems. High speed will not prevent the detection of the machine in flight, but it will not leave the enemy time for the correct response and use of anti-aircraft weapons.

The design of the power plant of the future SR-72

Apparently, the developer company and potential operators have not yet decided on the goals and objectives of the future aircraft. Development of target equipment and weapons, respectively, have not yet begun. According to various estimates, including those made by representatives of Lockheed Martin, the promising SR-72 can be both a reconnaissance aircraft and a platform for strike weapons. At the same time, in both cases the industry will have to face noticeable difficulties.

To use a hypersonic aircraft as a scout, several engineering tasks are required. Thus, the use of aerial cameras requires you to equip the machine with special windows and optical devices that are resistant to the characteristic loads that occur during flight at high speed. The use of electronic intelligence, in turn, is hampered by the fact that a cloud of hot, ionized gas can form around a hypersonic aircraft that can interfere with the transmission of radio waves.

Equipping the SR-72 with weapons is also associated with certain problems. Dropping bombs or launching a rocket at hypersonic speeds is an extremely difficult task. Moreover, such combat use imposes special requirements both on the carrier aircraft and on its weaponry. How exactly these tasks will be solved - if the customer nevertheless wishes to receive a strike aircraft - it remains only to guess. Perhaps the development company itself does not know what steps it should take.

In July last year, reports appeared in the profile editions, from which it followed that the SR-72 project had moved to a new stage. After completing the main part of the design work, Lockheed Martin built and tested the first prototype of the future hypersonic machine. Details of the tests were not published. In this case, the project developer declined to comment and did not even confirm the fact of the first test flight.

While maintaining the required secrecy, Lockheed Martin still publishes certain information about its new project. In particular, quite a long time ago the public showed an approximate look of the future hypersonic aircraft. The official reports in the recent past featured a figure showing a hypothetical SR-72 in flight. He allowed to make a general impression, although he did not disclose the most interesting features of the project.

The official figure depicted a car with a characteristic appearance, which has a number of specific features. In accordance with it, the SR-72 project provided for the construction of an integral-configuration aircraft with a small extension triangular wing with varying sweep of the leading edge. It was proposed to mount the fuselage units, which were made integral with the wing, above the carrier surface. Under the plane was placed a pair of nacelles to accommodate the engine. The tail plumage consisted of only one keel of middle sweep.

New image of hypersonic SR-72

At the beginning of January, a SciTech 2018 conference was held in Kissimmee (Florida), dedicated to advanced science and technology. During this event, Jack O'Bannion, Vice President of Lockheed Martin Advanced Development Programs, told about the completion of work on the unmanned version of the SR-72 hypersonic aircraft. In addition, a slide was shown depicting this machine in its current version. From the shown figure it followed that recently the project could undergo certain changes.

The new version of the SR-72 retains all the main features of the previous one, but differs in the design of the ventral engine nacelle. Instead of two separate volumes for engines, it is now proposed to use only one having an appropriate width. The air intake was also definitely developed.

Earlier it was reported that in the 2018 year should start the construction of a large-scale prototype model, designed for new flight tests. This product may receive not only automatic control systems, but also a full cockpit. The new prototype will have a length of about 18-20 m and will receive a new type of engine, with the help of which it will be able to speed up to M = 6 for a short time. It is expected that by the middle of the next decade the prototype will be able to take to the air and show the desired characteristics.

If the work continues and can lead to the desired result, then by 2030, the US Air Force will be able to get the desired reconnaissance or strike aircraft with uniquely high performance. Nevertheless, before the launch of mass production, the industry and the military will have to solve a number of very serious problems. From this will depend on the fate of the project.

As part of SciTech 2018, a recent science and technology forum, Boeing has revealed its plans for hypersonic aircraft. She has been researching this area for quite a long time, and is now ready to start developing a promising project. Already considered several options for the appearance of the future aircraft and selected suitable for further development. One of the acceptable variants of the technical appearance was presented in the form of a three-dimensional image.

Specialists of the company "Boeing" propose to build a plane "tailless" scheme with a delta wing with a broken leading edge. With the upper surface of the wing must be connected fuselage complex curved shape, characterized by a variable cross section and varying height. In the tail above the wing, it is proposed to place a pair of carinae that are spread out. Under the wing, on the longitudinal axis of the machine, there must be a large engine nacelle. The air intake is proposed to equip a vertical wedge.

According to representatives of the company-developer, a similar look of the future hypersonic aircraft has not yet been approved and adopted for further development. Nevertheless, it is already recognized as one of the most successful and promising, and, apparently, it will be implemented as part of a full-fledged project.

General view of the hypersonic aircraft proposed by the designers of Boeing

From the available data it follows that the development of a hypersonic aircraft under the brand name Boeing has not yet begun. Using the existing experience, the specialists of this company chose the most successful version of the architecture of the future machine, but have not yet begun to elaborate on the project. Development work will have to start in the near future and take several years. The deadlines for the completion of the project and for obtaining real results, for obvious reasons, are not yet specified.

It is reported that the company "Boeing" intends to solve the main tasks of the new project with the help of well-known ideas, including those already used in the SR-72. The future airframe will be built using various materials capable of withstanding high mechanical and thermal loads. For flying at low, super- and hypersonic speeds, it is planned to use combined engines combining units of turbo-jet and direct-flow systems.

It is expected that the aircraft from Boeing will be able to reach a speed of at least M = 5 and solve various problems. It is estimated that it can be used as a reconnaissance or strike aircraft. In addition, the possibility of creating a truck or a passenger car for use in commercial air travel is not excluded. However, while the project is at its earliest stages, when uncertainty can be preserved not only in the area of ​​technical issues, but also in the sphere of goals and objectives.

Currently, several US companies and organizations are engaged in the subject of hypersonic aircraft for various purposes. One of the most interesting directions in this area is the creation of airplanes suitable for solving practical problems. The leader of this direction at the moment is Lockheed Martin, which so far has managed not only to develop the project, but also, according to the available data, to test the first prototype, as well as to prepare for the construction of a new prototype.

Another major aircraft manufacturing company, Boeing, also managed to develop and test several prototypes, including those characterized by high airspeed. However, she is not yet ready to submit a draft aircraft suitable for use in practice. To date, experts have chosen the most successful version of the appearance of such an aircraft, which is planned to be developed as part of further work.

Thus, according to the results of all previous work that lasted for several years, Lockheed Martin was in the role of a leader with a certain lead over competitors, while Boeing has yet to catch up with it. Who will emerge victorious from such a race - for the time being it is impossible to speak with confidence. Hypersonic direction is extremely difficult to master, and therefore at any time the leader may encounter certain problems due to which he will lose his position.

Anyway, in the USA a new “arms race” is being planned with the participation of its own enterprises, this time in the field of hypersonic aircraft. New results of the two largest companies will have to appear in the near future. What they will be and what they will lead to will be known later.

On the materials of the sites:
Photos used:
Lockheed Martin, Boeing
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  1. Do not care
    Do not care 18 January 2018 07: 46
    While maintaining the required secrecy, Lockheed Martin still publishes certain information about its new project

    So nothing will happen. When something serious is planned, they’ll secret it so that it’s not crawling into the press at all,
    1. voyaka uh
      voyaka uh 18 January 2018 11: 55
      So, there will be a Pentagon tender for which Lockheed is ready for a prototype.
      Not without reason, the Boeing started bustling with a similar development.
  2. voyaka uh
    voyaka uh 18 January 2018 09: 31
    "The drop of bombs or the launch of a rocket at hypersonic speeds represents
    an extremely difficult task "////

    And this is unnecessary. Hypersound is needed exclusively for the passage of the missile defense zone and / or
    running away from air defense interceptors.
    And for reconnaissance and bombing, you need to slow down to a small supersonic (1.5 MAX), cool down and
    go to the usual actions of a bomber or scout.
    1. vlad007
      vlad007 18 January 2018 14: 50
      Quote: voyaka uh
      And this is unnecessary. Hypersound is needed exclusively for the passage of the missile defense zone and / or
      running away from air defense interceptors.

      It is not clear how this unmanned Aircraft differs from cruise hypersonic missiles. The fact that it is reusable, but is it good? A definite answer can be given only after comparing the prices of the rocket and the plane, but I think that the price of the plane will be in full. This is important for the tender, it may turn out that after voicing the price, the need for development will disappear by itself.
      1. voyaka uh
        voyaka uh 18 January 2018 15: 01
        "REUSABLE, but is it good?" ///

        You gave the answer yourself. And, of course, UAVs are good.
        KR is very very expensive. Even the most simplified version of subsonic Tomahawk
        with a plastic case and the simplest seeker only in geolocation costs at least
        1 million dollars. (Gauges, I think, are not cheaper). Make a solid supply of CD - go broke.
        Not to mention the fact that they are a "perishable product."
        A hypersonic CD (they do not exist yet) will cost the right 10 million
        A plane can hit several targets in one combat flight, unlike the KR. He will pay back
        yourself for a couple of dozen sorties.
        1. dzvero
          dzvero 18 January 2018 21: 52
          It will pay off if it survives to the end of those couple of dozen sorties. After all, they will not be used against Afghanistan or Mozambique. So, what will be more profitable - one plane for 500 million, which hit ten targets in its lifetime, or 50 hypersonic missiles for the same money
          1. voyaka uh
            voyaka uh 19 January 2018 01: 26
            "or 50 hypersonic missiles" ///

            There are no hypersonic CRs yet. Therefore, there is nothing to compare. A running ramjet engine has not yet been developed by any country. And when it is developed, then on top of stupidity will put such a difficult thing on a disposable product. But on a turbo jet plane to give acceleration - that's it.
            1. yehat
              yehat 22 January 2018 17: 38
              and who will stop the Americans from calling the old missiles hyper super duper sound and selling? Line engines have been invented for a long time and anti-aircraft missiles have been flying the m8-m12 for a long time.
    2. dauria
      dauria 19 January 2018 00: 26
      And for reconnaissance and bombing, you need to slow down to a small supersonic (1.5 MAX), cool down and
      go to the usual actions of a bomber or scout.

      It’s ridiculous. Somewhere in the direction of air defense was, but in the target area it is not. By the way, the A-12 (which was then stubbornly called SR-71) received fragments of S-75 anti-aircraft missiles over Vietnam, although it flew high and very fast, and was made taking into account "invisibility" wink Dear stupid idea. Serial really did not do it. Record yes. But who needed them, these records?
      The heads of ballistic missiles are knocked down, but a huge non-maneuvering iron can not?
      1. voyaka uh
        voyaka uh 19 January 2018 01: 32
        Why not maneuvering? Non-maneuvering in hypersound, and in supersonic it is perfectly maneuvering.
        The heads of ICBMs have learned a little how to shoot down in space, but we are talking about the atmosphere.
        About the device, which flies at supersonic, but knows how to jerk to hypersound using a ramjet engine.
  3. Serzh_R
    Serzh_R 18 January 2018 11: 38
    A US blogger discovered a secret aircraft being developed for the Air Force’s needs on satellite images of the state of Florida on Google Earth.

    According to Glockner himself, the airfield at which the mysterious object was discovered belongs to Pratt & Whitney, which is one of the foremost enterprises in the development of aircraft engines.

    The object is somewhat reminiscent of the SR-72 aircraft, developed by Lockheed Martin Corporation.

  4. tchoni
    tchoni 18 January 2018 14: 59
    Well, guys, and the boundaries (preliminary so far, though) of the appearance of the next generation of aircraft in general and fighters, in particular, were identified. It is a pity that our Su57 will become obsolete before it even has time to enter service in any significant amount.
    1. dauria
      dauria 19 January 2018 00: 57
      It’s only a pity that our Su57 is out of date

      Yeah, already passed - supersonic irons without guns of the F-104 type, carrots with a tiny wing and a load of 600 kg per square meter. m It turned out that the MiG-17 is successfully fighting with them, and with a record Phantom. Yes, and B-52s with Tu-95s are still flying, but B-1s with its supersonic and B-2s with its "invisibility" will still not be able to enter the air defense zone.
      They won’t fly in hypersound, they won’t even need supersonic - aerodynamic quality cannot be made above 7, consumption less than 1 kg per kg of thrust per hour is also unrealistic (compare quality 18 and consumption 0,5 kg / kg * hour at transonic ) It turns out at an acceptable range of the tank with fuel, and not the plane.
    2. dauria
      dauria 19 January 2018 01: 23
      , and the boundaries (preliminary so far, though) of the appearance of the next generation of aircraft were identified

      Fantasies on the subject - "I made an excellent hypersonic plane, I just do not have enough anti-gravity engine with a UFO." Well, there’s nothing to fly on now, and new principles do not grow on trees. And if they begin to grow, then it would be noticeable. Without supersonic combustion, you have to slow down the air in the intake - and this is unacceptable resistance. Or drag an oxidizer with you, so it's a rocket. Or to warm the working fluid (air) differently, as for example in a ramjet engine. But this is all for now FANTASY. .
  5. yehat
    yehat 22 January 2018 17: 35
    some nonsense. "will not leave time for reaction." check:
    maximum speed m = 6, but suppose Vmax = 6000 km / h for simplification.
    almost all modern armies have serial radars (not to mention stationary ones that see the aircraft from take-off), capable of detecting these aircraft for 800-1000 km, and naval aircraft about 400-600. Again, for simplicity, we take 800 km. A plane of 800 km flies in 800/6000 hours = 8 minutes
    So, on average, there will be about 8 minutes for a reaction. It seems to me enough time. You can even have time to call management and discuss.
  6. Turist1996
    Turist1996 24 January 2018 18: 36
    As a scout, it is absolutely pointless in the presence of an orbiting satellite constellation.
    As a percussion device - I just can’t imagine how the issue of putting the payload into the oncoming stream will be solved.
  7. shinobi
    shinobi 11 February 2018 15: 17
    Empty rustling. As a scout, very expensive. It’s more profitable to throw a target satellite into orbit. As a drummer, only in an unmanned version.