The true purpose of the US’s proposed SR-72 unmanned hypersonic strategic reconnaissance aircraft is attack rather than surveillance, says a Chinese military expert.
Zhang Zhaozhong told the Beijing TV program Decoding Chinese Military Intelligence that he believes that the SR-72’s stated purpose of reconnaissance is merely a decoy. The conceptual aircraft, proposed by Lockheed Martin, is said to have the same flight range as the SR-71 Blackbird strategic reconnaissance aircraft, but is unmanned and has an astonishing max speed of Mach 6, double that of the manned jet.
Traveling at such high speeds will compromise targeting accuracy and the clarity of surveillance images, Zhang said, adding that there is really no need for the SR-72 to conduct reconnaissance given the existence of satellites and Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned surveillance aircraft.
Zhang therefore believes that claims that the SR-72 will primarily be used for surveillance are aimed at taking attention away from its true purpose, which is strike missions.
In responding to suggestions that the development of the SR-72 is targeted at China, Zhang said all of the US’s weapons development during the Cold War was aimed at the Soviets. But when the Soviet Union collapsed, the US realized that it wasted a lot of money just to one-up its rival and has learned its lesson to never develop arms based on such motives again, he added.
Accordingly, the SR-72 is aimed at the entire world, including of course China, but to say it is only aimed at China would be overstating China’s importance, Zhang said.
Development work on the SR-72 by Skunk Works, the official alias for Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs, was first published by Aviation Week & Space Technology in November 2013. A new concept image of the aircraft constructed through computer modeling was released last month in Popular Science magazine.