(New throughout, adds Lockheed executive comment, background,
By Idrees Ali
WASHINGTON, March 15 Lockheed Martin Corp
will continue to invest in technology to develop
hypersonic aircraft that can respond to security threats much
more quickly than current fighter jets, Chief Executive Officer
Marillyn Hewson said on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters at the Lockheed's annual media day,
Hewson said the company had already made progress on hypersonic
programs and was producing an "aerodynamic configuration" which
could reach Mach 6, or six times the speed of sound.
The U.S. Defense Department has said it wants to build what
it calls a "prompt global strike" capability that would enable
it to hit targets worldwide within an hour with conventional or
According to a report published by the Mitchell Institute
for Aerospace Studies earlier this year, hypersonics had the
potential to revolutionize the military much like stealth
fighters did a generation ago.
"By fundamentally redefining the technical means of power
projection, the U.S. can circumvent challenges facing the
present force," the report said.
Hewson said that Lockheed could develop and build a
hypersonic demonstrator aircraft the size of a F-22 stealth
fighter for less than $1 billion.
Orlando Carvalho, who heads Lockheed's Aeronautics
division, said the government's current plan was to produce a
hypersonic weapon and field that before moving to develop and
field a hypersonic aircraft.
In 2013, Lockheed unveiled plans for a hypersonic spy plane
called the SR-72 that could fly at Mach 6, twice as fast as its
famed SR-71 Blackbird, and said a missile demonstrating the new
technology could fly as early as 2018.
Carvalho said the United States could realistically create a
hypersonic weapon in the 2020s, but it would likely take until
the 2030s to produce a hypersonic aircraft like the SR-72.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Bill
Rigby and David Gregorio)