Speed is the new stealth.
And when it comes to developing a high-speed reconnaissance aircraft, the Pentagon's top weapons supplier is playing in its home court.
In 1976, the Air Force flew Lockheed Martin's SR-71 Blackbird from New York to London in less than two hours — at speeds exceeding Mach 3, or three times the speed of sound.
The Blackbird, still the second-fastest manned plane in history, flew for more than 30 years and outpaced anti-aircraft missiles lobbed at it.
Today, the defense giant is upping the ante by engineering an unmanned plane it promises will be faster.
Dubbed the "son of the Blackbird," Lockheed Martin's SR-72 is envisioned to operate at speeds up to Mach 6.
"This could forever change our ability to deter and respond to conflict, allowing warfighters to quickly address threats before an adversary may have time to react," Hewson said of the hypersonic plane.
Hewson also said the development of the aircraft, which is estimated to cost $1 billion, will change the "definition of air power by giving the U.S. significant tactical and strategic advantages."
The SR-72 design incorporates lessons learned from Lockheed's Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) experimental aircraft. The unmanned HTV-2 flew at Mach 20 or 13,000 mph after being launched from a rocket. At those speeds, the aircraft could travel from New York to Los Angeles in under 15 minutes.
While the hypersonic SR-72 isn't expected to be operational until 2030, the company sees developing a platform of this magnitude as a game changer.
"Hypersonic aircraft coupled with hypersonic missiles could penetrate denied airspace and strike at nearly any location across a continent in less than an hour," hypersonics program manager Brad Leland said on Lockheed Martin's website.