Lockheed Martin hints at hypersonic aircraft and 6th-gen capabilities
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Defence iQ : The head of Lockheed Martin's Advanced Development Programs (ADP) – commonly known as Skunk Works – has hinted at the direction scientists and engineers are focusing their efforts for the next generation of military aircraft.
The division, which is famed for its work in developing the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the US Air Force's SR-71 Blackbird, has already begun work on the revolutionary fighter jet intended to be used by the US and its allies in 15-20 years.
Rob Weiss, ADP's executive vice president and general manager, told financial research company Investor's Business Daily that early development of the stealth capability for the sixth-generation fighter is centred in "one technology we think will make a huge difference."
While declining to elaborate further, Weiss did reveal that Skunk Works is taking "a broader approach to the aircraft that includes electronic warfare and improved situational awareness."
This statement suggests that a decision on whether the fighter is to be manned or unmanned has yet to be reached, a possibility that will alarm many who believe the concept of a manned fighter is already on the cusp of obsolescence.
However, there is also the possibility that the aircraft could be optionally manned or remotely-piloted – requiring an engineering precedent to be set in both cases.
Weiss also stated that hypersonic technology – that which achieves speeds of above Mach 5 – may be integrated into the fighter's weapons but that "the aircraft itself would not be hypersonic".
Skunk Works is instead working on a separate aircraft for hypersonic speed. The SR-72 – the proposed successor to the SR-71 – was officially announced as being in development in 2013.
Weiss told Aviation Week in June the technology was...