A PhantomSkunk in the Works

I'm sure you guys have seen this already, but in case you haven't yet, our friends at Aviation Week ran an interesting piece the other day on the development of a hypersonic demonstrator.

My question is whether this is the first time (at least in a high-ish profile) that Boeing has teamed with Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works (I assume Boeing's Phantom Works crew is involved) for a project that could be a large-scale deal?

I think it's kind of cool to think that all those 10-pound brains could be getting together to come up with a new plane like this.

This article first appeared at Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.

Boeing and ATK have joined the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works team bidding to build the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Blackswift hypersonic technology demonstrator.

Northrop Grumman is understood not to have bid, making it likely a contract will be awarded to Lockheed by September. The unmanned, reusable turbojet/scramjet-powered Blackswift is planned to fly in 2012.

Under DARPA's Falcon program, Lockheed has completed conceptual design of a demonstrator, the HTV-3X, that forms the basis for the Blackswift. The goal of the demonstration is to take-off conventionally, accelerate to beyond Mach 6, maneuver and return to a runway landing.

Skunk Works also is performing subscale tests of the combined-cycle propulsion system, which comprises a high-Mach turbojet and dual-mode ram/scramjet. The turbine is used for take-off and landing, and to accelerate the vehicle to Mach 4, where the ramjet takes over.

Lockheed has ground-tested inlets and nozzles that are shared by the two engines, says Stephen Walker, deputy director of DARPA's Tactical Technology Office. The challenge is in combining both flowpaths over the Mach range during which both the turbine and ramjet are operating, he says.

Be sure to read the rest of this story, a piece on more "war bots" for Joes and a bulkhead-by-bulkhead look at the death of a frigate from our Aviation Week friends at Military.com.

-- Christian

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