The US Air Force has commissioned Leidos to work on a large air-to-air hypersonic drone capable of reconnaissance, reconnaissance, surveillance and strike missions.
Speed is still a huge advantage in the skies, and the military is working hard to bring weapon systems to hypersonic speeds, more than five times the speed of sound. Mayhem will be an unmanned hypersonic aircraft capable of performing the missions that the legendary SR-71 Blackbird once flew, with a variety of interchangeable payloads.
It has been speculated that the Mayhem drone could have something to do with Lockheed Martin’s SR-72 (“son of Blackbird”) hypersonic manned aircraft and could use a similar revolutionary “combined cycle” propulsion system to get around the fact that hypersonic drives simply don’t work on takeoff and landing, subsonic and even supersonic speeds.
But it seems like things could be easier. In a press release to win the $334 million contract, defense contractor Leidos describes Mayhem as “an unstoppable hypersonic multipurpose ISR and Strike program” and says it will use hypersonic propulsion for propulsion. This means that it may not be able to take off under its own power; perhaps it will need to be launched on a rocket capable of making the drone move fast enough to “wake up” the engine. However, the same problems are expected on deceleration and landing on the runway.
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The project, lasting four and a half years, begins with a review of system requirements and a conceptual design.
Russian media reported a drone crash at the Engels air base after Ukroboronprom announced the final tests of a long-range UAV
Source: New Atlas