The “new” Pentagon hypersonic Blackswift jet may have checkmated Russia and China perhaps in 2008 when the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the US Air Force were still actively working on this project. As it turned out back then, Sec. of Defense Bill Gates chose to cancel the project and Blackswift went into a budgetary black hole, according to “Flight Global,” Oct. 13, 2008. Some aviation experts across the industry have made speculative observations that Blackswift may have really gone black . . . that is, turned into a totally covert development process . . . but most analysts concede that it ceased to exist.
The recent news stories about the Russian Mig 29 fighter (actually, the very newest Mig 35 Mach 2.25 variant) and the Chinese J20 are somewhat humorous in the sense that those aircraft are notable for demonstrating technological advancements that were routine for the US Air Force as far back as 1981 for the stealth fighter F117 Nighthawk and the strategic stealth bomber B1 Lancer in 1974. These two USAF planes have been in service for decades and what was once their cutting edge technology dates back to the late sixties.
There are some amazing recent developments in hypersonic flight that are actually more associated with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration than with the USAF. The X51-A Waverider, in May 2010, expanded the speed and maneuverability characteristics of unmanned flight at Mach 6 ( just beyond the Mach 5 limits of actual aircraft functions. However, the X43A Scramjet, in Nov. 2004, established the unbelievable short-burst speed record of Mach 9.6 (about 7,000 mph). Both of these projects are more likely developments in devising a replacement vehicle for the canceled space shuttles than in leading to new strike fighter/interceptor aircraft models.
The most notable wild guesses by aviation writers and fantasy aircraft speculators gather around a pair of concept fighters that may exist or may just be mythological “urban legends” created by technology buffs.
The first is Aurora, as described at “aerospaceweb.” Other intelligent speculation about this possible aircraft is on the web at “This Is Rocket Science” and the more detailed sections are informative. “More Info on Aurora” and “Aurora Timeline” are especially excellent. And the “Aurora Links” can lead interested readers into a strange new world of what the future of fighter/interceptor performance and technology may become. The general notion that the Russians and the Chinese might even begin to challenge this incredible 21st century technology makes their cast iron avionics and steam powered aeronautics seem like a look back into history.
Finally, for a wildly speculative look at what actual fighter/interceptor aircraft the USAF may be flying, the lengthy write-up “RAF Boscombe Down’s Black Day” will take the casual reader down a British “rabbit hole” of interesting guesswork based on eyewitness tales of a mishap in 1994. By affiliating the Aurora concept with an actual prototype USAF aircraft (YF23, which see here and read about at “Global Security”) and the officially “unheard” of “Astra project,” the potential advancements of USAF technology are mind-boggling. ” The website “Above Top Secret” describes the Astra TR 3B air vehicle as if there are facts available about the project. Although to the contrary, many writers view these speculations as part of the UFO/alien line of thought.
In general, there are some very interesting possibilities about aircraft that go quite far beyond the initial advancements of the Blackswift, and these observations, speculations, and fantastic projections certainly make it appear as if the rest of the world would be hard pressed to catch up with the advanced technologies of USA fighter/interceptor production.