Black Aircraft
Black Triangles
Blackswift: Return of the Spaceplane
Photo courtesy Bill Sweetman of Aviation Week's Ares blog

By Sharon Weinberger
August 13, 2007 | 9:30:00 AM
Wired News

Back in 1986, Ronald Reagan announced plans for a "a new Orient Express that could... take off from Dulles Airport and accelerate up to twenty-five times the speed of sound, attaining low earth orbit or flying to Tokyo within two hours."  That program, known formally as the National Aerospace Plane (NASP), failed miserably.   Now, DARPA is taking another crack at building a hypersonic vehicle that will take off and land like an aircraft.  It's called Blackswift.

The project isn't the new Orient Express, however. Blackswift is only supposed to get up to Mach 6, instead of Mach 25, and DARPA is quick to say it's not NASP.  In fact, Blackswift emerged from Falcon, a DARPA project that aimed to, among other things, build a family of hypersonic test vehicles, or HTVs.  "Blackswift was a derivative of a program they had with the Air Force, called Falcon," one Pentagon official told me. "It was the HTV-3X. They are now calling it Blackswift."

According to the few details available on Blackswift, Lockheed Martin's famed Skunk Works shop is the main contractor for the vehicle. DARPA, in fact, still isn't talking about Blackswift; it's using the HTV-3X designation. But HTV-3X is a departure from the previous Falcon program. Careful observers at last week's DARPATech, like Bill Sweetman (who also snapped the photo above), noticed some important elements: "Key features - apparent from images snagged from DARPA video, and from other sources - include the fact that HTV-3X is an unmanned, fighter-sized aircraft."

FalconWhen I queried DARPA about Falcon last month, while reporting on a related subject, the agency's spokesperson noted this new direction. "Originally the program planned an HTV-3 that would be boosted by a rocket, but the program is currently developing a concept design for an HTV-3X, which would be powered with a combined cycle engine instead of using a rocket booster, meaning that it would take off and land like an aircraft and cruise at speeds of approximately Mach 6."

While there still aren't too many details about Blackswift, a little noticed Air Force press article that apeared in May quoted DARPA's Steven Walker speaking about the new program:

The Falcon Blackswift flight demonstration vehicle will be powered by a combination turbine engine and ramjet, an all-in-one power plant. The turbine engine accelerates the vehicle to around Mach 3 before the ramjet takes over and boosts the vehicle up to Mach 6.

Aviation Week recently reported on some elements of this new demonstration, noting that the "[k]ey to its operation will be an inward-turning inlet that forms the basis for the axisymmetric scramjet flowpath design just evaluated in the recent test in Australia."  And DARPA's Walker noted: "The Falcon Blackswift flight demonstration vehicle will be powered by a combination turbine engine and ramjet, an all-in-one power plant. The turbine engine accelerates the vehicle to around Mach 3 before the ramjet takes over and boosts the vehicle up to Mach 6."

Walker also noted that Lockheed Martin (working with Pratt & Whitney) is the main contractor for Blackswift. "I will also be communicating to Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney on how important it is that we get the technical plan in place and start working with AEDC even more," he said. 

The Blackswift/Falcon confusion is not helped by DARPA's own reticence about the project. Readers may remember that Defense News ran a story in June about an allegedly classified Air Force contract given to Lockheed for a Mach 6 spaceplane. As Noah then pointed out in DANGER ROOM, Defense News likely confused this aircraft with the Falcon/Blackswift, which is indeed supposed to be a Mach 6 aircraft built by Lockheed Martin (except that it's DARPA, not the Air Force, that is behind it).

In fact, that's the crux of the issue: the Air Force hasn't bought into Blackswift yet; meaning, DARPA doesn't have a military customer yet, and the agency will need it if it wants to get this project off the ground.

So is it Falcon, or is it Blackswift? "DARPA is currently holding preliminary discussions regarding a possible program called Blackswift, but no decisions have been made," was all the DARPA's spokesperson would say on the matter.

NASA Blackswift Hypersonic Scramjet or HTV-3X

NASA Blackswift hypersonic scramjet or HTV-3X by ufoblogger
NASA Blackswift hypersonic scramjet or HTV-3X
Uploaded by ufoblogger. - Explore more science and tech videos.
Transcript of Video
by Beth Vegh, Pegasus

One day Air Force pilots will blast off from US bases and reach their targets, flying six times the speed of sound.  The Air Force just completing a successful test flight that can make this simulation a reality.  It's an experimental plane using a new engine that not only burns its fuel but it blows itself up for greater propulsion.

NASA analyst, aviation consultant, Ken Christiansen my guest now.

Reporter (Bill):  Ken, good morning.
Ken:  Mornin' Bill
Bill: In english now, not in science talk,
Ken: (chuckles)
Bill:  How does it work?
Ken:  Very, very complicated.  Ah, basically ah, as we transcended from one area to another, from jets to uh, scramjets and rockets, this is more of an explosion within the combustion chamber.  A series of very small explosions or large explosions but pulse up to maybe a thousand a second and that will, just like the jetson cars that accelerated you would hear the pulsing umm..much like that.
Bill: Check that out. You see that go off the runway?
Lady in background: hmph
Bill:  It was gone. What would this do for aviation, Ken?  If we can do it succesfully?
Ken:  I think as you go through the uh different technologies, what what really, this is gonna be an enabler to go in the Mach V to Mach X regime
Bill: Which is how fast?
Ken:  Ah, very fast.
Bill:  That three thousand miles an hour, what is that?
Ken: About three thousand um, you're talking about 2300 miles at Mach 3, so, just under, just under 10,000, within that range.
Bill: So you can take off, you can take off from a runway -- let me be sure I get this right -- fly it at six times the speed of sound and then come back home again?
Ken:  Yes, much like the shuttle.  The shuttle goes up and comes back as an orbiter. This vehicle would actually be able to take off from a runway or maybe uh a modified launch pad and then return like an aircraft.
Bill:  How, how does a human being stand that six times the speed of sound?  What, what, what would that feel like?
Ken: It's, it'll be gradual.  A human can't that immediate uh, acceleration, so much like the space shuttle, the existing space shuttle, the accelerate from, or they leave the pad at zero and then go up to 17,500 miles an hour to reach orbital velocity.  To go into uh, into space, but that's a gradual. In the shuttle's situation it takes about 9, 9 and a half minutes to uh to accelerate to that speed.
Bill: You need the, the equipment to be able to stand it too.  How, if if it could be done, what would it cost?
Ken:  Uh, that's TBD at this point. The monies that I uh read about on the, when I researched this item, um, it's it's in the millions but this will clearly go into the billions as this, as this is developed.  Air Force has been doing it.  Darpa's been doing it.  Um NASA, uh Dryden Flight Research Center in the uh, does it.
Bill: Yeah uh everyone does it yeah.  Wonder what Wilbur and Orville are thinking about this right now. (laughs) uh huh, cool.
Lady in background: (laughs)
Bill: Thank you, Ken. Ken Christiansen. The future, someday.
Ken: You're welcome, Bill
Lady in background: 10,000 miles an hour
Bill: (whistles)
Lady: That's NY to LA in 20 minutes (snaps her fingers).  How'd you like that?  I'm in.
Bill: I like it!
Lady: Even me. Even I'd get on that flight.

Hypersonic Rocket-Plane Program Inches Along
Falcon HTV Concept
Photo Courtesy: Defense Industry Daily

16-Dec-2007 14:40 EST

The path toward a hypersonic space plane has been a slow one, filled with twists and turns one would expect given the technological leap involved. Speeds of Mach 8+ place tremendous heat and resistance stresses on a craft. Building a vehicle that is both light enough to achieve the speeds desired at reasonable cost, and robust enough to survive those speeds, is no easy task.

The famous SR-71 Blackbird, which cruised at “only” Mach 3, made heavy use of titanium and had to use slip fits instead of rivets in many places, so that the plane wouldn’t tear itself apart when 800-900 degree surface temperatures made it expand. On the ground, and when being refueled shortly after takeoff, the plane would reportedly leak like a sieve until speed and heat had given the airframe its requisite fit. While the state of the art has advanced since then, so have the desired speeds – and the accompanying challenges.

Despite these hurdles, the potential of a truly hypersonic aircraft for reconnaissance, global strike/ transport, and low-cost access to near-space and space make DARPA’s FALCON HTV program a compelling goal on both engineering and military grounds. DID covers its ongoing developments below…
Displaying 204 of 1,812 words (about 5 pages)

SOURCE: Continue Reading Defense Industry Daily (Subscription Required)

Hypersonic Plane Hits Turbulence; 
Budget Cut, Testing in Doubt
Photo courtesy Bill Sweetman of Aviation Week's Ares blog

By Noah Shachtman
June 12, 2008 | 12:10:00 PM
Wired News

Lockheed recently unveiled a new sketch for Blackswift, the Pentagon's $800 million hypersonic airplane project. The question is whether the program will ever be more than sketches and mock-ups. The Senate Armed Services Committee has recommended cutting the project's budget by more than 40 percent; even its backers in the military doubt whether the aircraft will ever fly. 

Blackswift is an ultra-ambitious effort to build an aircraft that can take off from a runway, do some spins in the air, accelerate to over six times the speed of sound, and then land back safely on the ground.

So-called hypersonic (more than Mach 5) projects like these have previously relied on scramjets -- engines that ignite and burn air, instead of an oxidizer, for propulsion. The problem is, the air has to be moving really, really fast (and at high altitudes) in order for the scramjets to work. So far, the most successful effort has been NASA's X-43. It had to be flown up into the atmosphere by a B-52 plane. Then, a rocket brought the X-43 up to multi-Mach speeds. Only then could the aircraft's air-breathing, scramjet engine take over, and propel the X-43 at hypersonic rates. The hypersonic portion of the flight lasted only 10 seconds.

Essentially, Blackswift aims to combine the plane, the rocket, and the scramjet-powered craft into a single airframe, with a single engine that has both a standard turbine and scramjet. It's an enormous challenge. Moreover, Blackswift's masters at Darpa and the Air Force want the thing to fly hypersonically for a full minute. "If Blackswift is successful, we'll get 60 seconds of flight time -- six times longer than the X-43," Air Force chief scientist Mark Lewis tells Danger Room. "It's really exciting."

What Lewis is still trying to figure out is how he'd test the thing, much less fly it. The combo engine, especially, "is a big unknown. It's very difficult to simulate, especially on the ground. The first time you do test it is going to be when you fly it," he says.

At least "there are no obvious violations of the laws of physics," Lewis adds.

And, as if getting hypersonic aircraft to fly in a straight line weren't hard enough, the Darpa requirements for Blackswift call for the craft to do an "aileron roll" -- a spin, along its axis -- in midflight. Why the roll? Lewis says he "doesn't know." And the Senate Armed Service Committee is scratching its head. In its recent report on the new defense spending bill, the committee noted, "it is not clear why that will necessarily enhance the program."

Darpa spokesperson Jan Walker's answer: "We want it to be an airplane. We want to say once and for all we've built a hypersonic aircraft and that we've demonstrated the technology for this country to be able to decide if it's worth the money to build an operational version," she recently told Aviation Week.

Meanwhile, the Air Force is working on another hypersonic project, the X-51, which gets up to Mach speeds the old-fashioned way -- with a plane and a rocket booster. But the X-51 is scheduled to fly that fast for five or six minutes. The first of six test flights for the program is scheduled for next year. If it all works, the $250 million project will have generated up to 2,160 seconds of hypersonic flight time -- 36 times as much as Blackswift, for about one-third of the cost. Granted, it'll only be in a straight line. And it won't be reusable like Blackswift might be. But hypersonics is already so tough right now, that would still be a major triumph.

The disparity between the two crafts' flight times is causing some in Congress to question the Blackswift investment. The Senate Armed Services Committee recently slashed the program's $120 million budget for next year by $50 million -- more than 40 percent.

There's also the question of what Blackswift is for, exactly. As the Committee noted, "It is not clear... whether a hypersonic cruise aircraft ... designed for long-range flight and recovery offers unique capability and operational utility." (The senators recommend putting money into X-51 and associated projects, instead.)

Some see Blackswift as a logical successor to the legendarily quick and stealthy SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance jet -- even calling Blackswift "SR-72." Others view it as the way to fulfill the Pentagon's vision of striking anywhere on Earth, in a matter of hours. (Fat chance; the thing would have to carry a few hundred-thousand points of fuel to pull it off.) "There's a great deal of discussion regarding what this thing might be," Lewis says. "How it's perceived depends on the briefing."

Related Links:

Video: Blackswift Plane Flies
DARPA Falcon Hypersonic X-plane - Part 1

DARPA Falcon Hypersonic X-plane - Part 2

By Sharon Weinberger
December 13, 2007 | 10:27:14 AM

Blackswift flies, at least with the power of animation. Graham Warwick at Flight posts video of the HTV-3X, which, as DANGER ROOM first reported, is set to be renamed Blackswift, a hypersonic aicraft jointly sponsored by DARPA and the Air Force. The video of the aircraft looks great, and for those not swayed by the plane, there's a woman in a lowcut shirt! 


Blackswift Swoops in for $750 million

By Sharon Weinberger
January 24, 2008
Wired News

The Pentagon's 2009 budget request -- expected to go to Congress next month -- will ask for $750 million to fund a prototype hypersonic aircraft called Blackswift, reports Inside Defense. The Blackswift project, will will initially be managed by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), also includes participation from the U.S. Air Force. DARPA and the Air Force signed a memorandum of understanding on Blackswift last year, as DANGER ROOM first reported. Although the project has now made its way through the budgeting process, Pentagon officials are still not saying much about it:

Blackswift Defense officials are tight-lipped about details surrounding the Blackswift program. One source would only say its goal is to fly “higher and faster” than the vehicle worked on during its predecessor project.

One of Blackswift’s key characteristics is that it will be capable of “powered and recoverable hypersonic flight,” which means the craft can safely return to Earth and be reused, one official said. “That’s new for us,” the source added.

Hypersonic speed describes velocities upward of Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound.

Blackswift’s technology could be used to develop transport vehicles for staging U.S. assets in space, sources said. In addition, the concept could help develop a delivery vehicle of conventional warheads as part of the Defense Department’s Prompt Global Strike concept, they added.

Under the Prompt Global Strike label, defense officials are developing a capability to strike a target anywhere on the globe within 60 minutes of a launch order.

As envisioned, the Blackswift program will be managed by DARPA and the Air Force. Air Force Chief Scientist Mark Lewis said the project will be led by the agency “for the first phase.” He referred a reporter’s questions about details to DARPA’s public affairs office, as did an Air Force spokeswoman.

DARPA spokeswoman Jan Walker also declined to answer specific questions about the effort. “We will not [discuss] Blackswift plans prior to release of the FY-09 budget,” she said.

My favorite oft-repeated quote about hypersonics is that "it's the future of aerospace....and always will be." The challenge for Blackswift will be to prove that it's actually going to push hypersonics forward, or, whether like previous hypersonic aircraft efforts (think Orient Express), it's setting itself up for failure.


DARPA Official Reports
Industry Day Agenda
June 10, 2008
Photo courtesy DARPA/AFRL
Image courtesy DARPA/AFRL

DARPA: VULCAN_Industry_Day_Presentations PDF


Program Solicitation PS08-02 Hypersonic Testbed - Amendment 0001 DOC

NASA tests hypersonic Blackswift, based on Nazi V-1 technology
Posted by Jason
June 26, 2008 21:14

Hello everyone.

I haven't seen anything about this mentioned anywhere except via a video (no text) on the Fox News website:
video link

According to the (obviously out-of-date) information I've found, the Blackswift was rumored to be a super secret aircraft co-named HTV-3X that used a turbojet to reach supersonic and then a scamjet to reach hypersonic -- essentially a 21st century version of the J58.

Instead, the Blackswift described in the video uses pulse detonation engines, essentially a modern version of the V-1 buzz bomb engine. This engine requires significantly less moving parts and achieves much higher efficiency than a turbofan, and is technically able to go hypersonic without any kind of "dual-stage" engine.

The Fox News video is total braindead... anyone have a good source of technical information on this? I'm under the impression that the aircraft was only unveiled, B-2-style, TODAY.

- Jason 


SR-72 Confirmed: Mach 6 Project Blackswift
Discussion at

Originally posted by intelgurl THIS POST

I spoke to an extremely reliable source who told me that the huge new hangar at Groom Lake is for a Mach 6 hypersonic UCAV that has spun off from the hypersonic Falcon project. 

The source told me that this is to be a system that will have both ISR and attack versions and it is being made at Lockheed's Skunk Works. Support equipment has already arrived at Groom Lake along with operator flight sim workstations, etc.

The USAF recently published an article in the Air Force Times that stated the following:

The Air Force has awarded Lockheed’s Advanced Development Projects arm a top-secret contract to develop a stealthy 4,000-mph plane capable of flying to altitudes of about 100,000 feet, with transcontinental range. The plan is to debut the craft around 2020.

Source: Air Force Times - Thursday Jun 21, 2007
An SR-72 in the works?

The timetable according to my source is way farther advanced than that discussed in the Air Force Times article. Apparently this aircraft is only a couple of years from being operational - as opposed to the Air Force's stated 12-13 yr development time.

The name of the new UCAV project is called "Blackswift" and is supposed to have a hybrid turbine/ramjet, similar to but much more advanced than the SR-71's J-58 hybrid engines.

There is only one source on the web that has discussed the Blackswift and so I have included a link to that web site.

SOURCE: Daily Tech.Com, August 14, 2007
Blackswift Hypersonic Aircraft Cruises at Mach 6

The original image given out by the USAF for this project (dubbed the SR-72)looked like this...

The actual model of the "Blackswift" vehicle looks like this...[/b]


The peices of the puzzle are coming together on this one.


Originally posted by f9cougarpilot a member of ATS, POST ID 3459687

I have no doubt that Lockheed is involved in a new SR72 project.  I know for a fact that the hangar 47 complex at Palmdale, owned by the City of Los Angeles is being cleared of tenants and is undergoing extensive modifications to the building.  It is my understanding that Lockheed will take over the entire hangar complex on September 8th, when the lease made to Sanswire has expired.  Sanswire is presently in the process of being evicted from the hangar having not paid their $19,000/month rent since November of 06.  A hearing is scheduled for August 27, Department 58 at the County Courts building on Hill Street at 8:30 a.m.  The case number is BC370248. 

Quote intelgurl... extremely reliable source who told me that the [u]huge new hangar at Groom Lake[/u] is for a Mach 6 hypersonic UCAV 

Originally posted by makeitso

Here is an image of the new hanger under construction.  Seems it was taken during an expedition in June '07, and first written about here. Its possible that one of our own ATS members may have captured and posted this image to the website.  I'll U2U and ask.

Image of new Hanger available here - Lazy G Ranch

There is also a new satellite image from July '07 of the new hanger posted HERE [Dreamland]

There was also an article published in July, authored by George Knapp discussing the possibility that the new hanger at Groom Lake is for the SR-72. 

Pegasus Addition - Earlier Google image of new hanger


I-Team: New Top Secret Construction at Area 51
George Knapp, Chief Investigative Reporter
Updated: July 23, 2007 04:11 PM 

Something big is in the works at Nevada's legendary Area 51 military base. A massive new building is under construction at the top secret location. Aviation experts say there's a good chance that a new, highly classified aircraft might soon be zipping around the Nevada skies.

What kind of aircraft? One possibility is a successor to the SR-71 spy plane, the SR-72. 


Lockheed Skunkworks Job Description for
$30M sub-contracting oversight

Industry Job Title Aeronautical Engineer Prin
Standard Job Code/Title E1456:Aeronautical Engineer Prin
Required skills Proven team leadership experience, Subcontractor management, Engine supplier coordination, Strong technical background with high speed compressible flow, High speed ground test experience
Desired skills Ramjet/scramjet experience, Project management experience

Specific Job Description This position requires an extremely experienced individual responsible for management of the technical performance of sub-contractor Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne during development of the dual mode ramjet (DMRJ), common SERN nozzle, manufacturing demonstration of the actively cooled DMRJ combustor and design, fabrication and test of the DMRJ Freejet model in a high-speed (up to Mach 6.5) government test facility. Total approximate budget for sub-contract propulsion elements of Falcon in 2007 is $30M with expected increase in out years. The high visibility and importance of propulsion success and the risk associated with executing this significant DARPA program requires the need for this level of a propulsion engineer. This candidate must have applicable experience and capability for the program’s technical propulsion and propulsion integration challenges. Good oral and written communication skills are essential. A combination of education and experience may be considered equivalent to the degree requirement. Case-by-case evaluation must occur. Applicants selected will be subject to a government security investigation and must meet eligibility requirements for access to classified information.
Security Clearance Secret
Program Falcon
Department 6C4P10ropulsion Analysis-Palmdale

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