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The Need for Speed: SR-72

Artists impression of the Lockheed Martin SR-72. (Image © Lockheed Martin Corp.)
Artists impression of the Lockheed Martin SR-72. (Image © Lockheed Martin Corp.)

Forget the SR-71 Blackbird and its lousy mach 3. In a few years time its successor, the SR-72, will take flight and reach speeds up to mach 6, according to Lockheed Martin engineers. The news of the SR-72 was published by major news networks, all hailing the great invention that was SR-71 and naming the new SR-72 ‘Son of Blackbird’.

The unmanned SR-72 is supposedly being designed with off-the-shelf materials, a method that was used before by Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works in Palmdale on the F-117 Nighthawk, among others. The method would save a lot of money and lead to the aircraft being ready to fly by 2018 for a total of just 1 billion USD, said Lockheed Martin engineers in several interviews.

The development would mean the US is steering back to speed as an important strategic asset, as opposed to stealth. The new SR-72 would have to be able to reach any target on earth in just an hour.

Details of the new hypersonic spy plane project first came to light after Lockheed Martin’s and Boeing’s bid to develop a bid for the Pentagon’s new long-range bomber.

© 2013 AIRheads’ editor Elmer van Hest

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Fire and take aim!

A Dutch F-16 performs a flyby for the camera. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Dutch F-16 performs a flyby for the camera. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Fire and take aim! If you read that very quickly, you maybe won’t even notice that its usually the other way around. That lesson was also learned by a Dutch F-16 pilot on Monday while practicing air to ground gunnery at the Vliehors range at Vlieland, an island in the nortwestern part of the Netherlands. He fired the M61A1 Vulcan gun at the range control tower instead of the intended target, Dutch MoD reported.

Nobody was injured in the incident, which is now being investigated. Similar incidents took place in 2001 and 1992, luckily also without any serious harm done. The F-16 involved on Monday was flying from Vokel airbase.

Some earlier footage including live firing, taken from the tower involved:

© 2013 AIRheads’ editor Elmer van Hest

Final sorties for RAF Hercs

This RAF C-130K is seen here at Brussels' Melsbroek airport, only a month ago. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
This RAF C-130K is seen here at Brussels’ Melsbroek airport, only a month ago. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Two Royal Air Force C-130K Hercules aircraft flew the last ever sorties by the type on Friday, ending over 45 years of service with the RAF. The two Hercules departed Brize Norton airbase and arrived back there after their final flight.

The RAF ordered 66 C-130K aircraft in the sixties, naming them Hercules C1 and Hercules C3 for the lengthened version. The aircraft operated from Lyneham airfield near Oxford for many years, untill recently the remaining aircraft were transferred to Brize Norton. The aircraft is being replaced with newer turboprop Hercules C4 and C5 aircraft, plus eventually the Airbus A400M transporter.

The retired C-130Ks have been scrapped, preserved or sold to new owners. Austria has been flying three ex-RAF C-130s for years now. Colombia is named as a customer for the last remaining RAF Hercs, but not officialy.

The final sortie apparently offered a nice photo opportunity, as seen here. Below is a short clip of a Hercules C3 arriving back at Brize Norton in September, on the same day two VC-10s flew their last sortie.

A nice film about the C-130K in RAF-service is here:

© 2013 AIRheads’ editor Elmer van Hest

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Check out the Royal Air Force Orbat at Scramble.nl

Boeing and Lockheed Martin team up in bomber effort

On the nose: a B-52H Stratofortress. Boeing and Lockheed Martin team up to come up with a replacement. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
On the nose: a B-52H Stratofortress. Boeing and Lockheed Martin team up to come up with a replacement. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Boeing and Lockheed Martin are teaming up in an effort to develop a new bomber aircraft for the United States Air Force’s Long-Range Strike Bomber program, both companies announced on Friday. The goal is to develop an aircraft that will replace the B-52 Stratofortress and B-1B Lancer in the bomber role from the next decade onwards.

The US Air Force expects believes its current B-52s and B-1s will be safe to operate through 2040 and the B-2 Stealth bombers through 2058. The Stratofortress and the Lancer however are already vulnerable to enemy air defences. The B-2 has the ability to make it through defences, but the USAF’s guess is this capability won’t last forever. Therefore, the new aircraft will eventually probably also replace the B-2.

The Long-Range Strike Bomber program (LRS-B) aims to find that replacement bomber. The US has a need for up to 100 of these aircraft, that will almost surely be capable of manned and unmanned operations. The aircraft should first take to the skies some time in the next decade.

Boeing will act as the prime contractor and Lockheed Martin as the primary teammate, a statement said on Friday. The Lockheed Martin press release is here.

© 2013 AIRheads’ editor Elmer van Hest

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Joint air defence for BeNeLux

Belgian F-16s will guard Dutch skies and vice versa from 2016 on. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Belgian F-16s will guard Dutch skies and vice versa from 2016 on. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

The three countries of the BeNeLux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) will start a joint air defence in 2016. The move was announced on Wednesday, and will lead to one Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) covering all three countries.

The Belgian and Dutch secretaries of Defence will sign a letter of intent about the joint defence. Both countries will work together closely with Luxembourg, which has now defence forces of its own. Earlier talks were held last year.

Belgium and the Netherlands both have F-16s on QRA to intercept unknown incoming aircraft. The reduction to one single QRA will reduce costs and also free up Dutch pilots for future F-35A Lightning II operations.

Source: Ministerie van Defensie