back to article Blackswift hypersonic plane cancelled

US military crazytech chiefs have cancelled the planned "Blackswift" Mach-6 runway aeroplane, following an almost complete cutoff of funding by Congress. Aviation Week reports that the challenging Blackswift project has now definitely been closed down, following a reduction of its FY 2009 budget from $120m to just $10m. It …


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  1. twelvebore

    Pig references

    "at DARPA the bacon must be strictly from flying pigs, the black pudding* from the bleeding edge and every pie fresh from the sky."

    And the pork straight from the barrel I presume?

  2. vale

    I wonder if they cut the funding because....

    they stole music from commmand and conquer generals?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not necessarily cancelled

    Couldn't it come back from the dead as a zombie hypersonic plane funded by the 'black' budget?

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Black Pudding

    The first choice of weapon for disciples of the little-known Lancastrian martial art of Ecky-Thump.

    Mine's the cloak with Ee Bah Goom stitched on the sleeves ...

  5. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    Never say never....

    When propellers and big piston engines dominated the airspeed records, some people claimed that planes would never exceed 500mph because they thought in the limits of the "current technology", which was how propeller thrust related to engine power, and along came jets and screwed that prediction! Not so long ago supersonic cruise without afterburners (aka "supercruise") was considered impossible, but just look at the F-22 today. And the old Lockheed Blackbird certainly showed high Mach speeds are possible even with sixties tech. If there is one thing history shows it's that as soon as one scientist/engineer makes a prediction there are a dozen more that will work to prove it wrong!

    The spec does not exclude the use of rockets to get the plane up to the speed required, so a plane with a conventional jet engine for take-off and even supercruise, plus a rocket pack to boost it to say Mach 3 for scramjet start-up would fit, so a plane with three engines is not beyond possibility. Seeing as bodylift becaomes a big factor at Mach 3+, wings that retract as the scramjest come in would remove many of the aerodynamic problems, and vectored thrust would give the limited manouvering desireable at high speed (you would only want to make the gentlest of turns as anything else would risk the whole craft simply folding up!). And the space program has heat-resistant tiles for the shuttle which I believe meet the friction requirement (re-entering the stratosphere actually entails more friction than flying hypersonic at altitudes above 20,000ft due to the ozone layer, the speed of sound actually being higher in the ozone layer due to higher gas density).

    So it would be difficult, but I wouldn't say never possible.

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    So project cancelled ?

    But they still get $10 million ?

    To do what with, have meetings on a golf course ?

  7. blackworx


    "at DARPA the bacon must be strictly from flying pigs, the black pudding from the bleeding edge and every pie fresh from the sky"

    My hat's off to you Mr. Page. You show a turn of phrase the quality of which is never to be found in other authors' drab filings on the subject at hand.

  8. Alistair
    Thumb Up

    Very sorry this morning

    I had some of that stuff as part of my healthy breakfast on Sunday, then went and did a five-hour, 21 mile mountain bike ride. If a small portion of that can help drag my large and sorry ar5e around half of Gloucestershire I'm sure it can help accelerate a small 'plane to hypersonic speeds.

  9. Anonymous Coward


    The costs on these types of programs keep escalating for the same reason the cost of the International Space Station skyrocketed - namely due to constant on--then-off-then-on funding behavior of Congress. $120M is nothing compared to, say, Boston's $14B "Big Dig" pork project or all the pork in the present budget:

  10. Steve
    Paris Hilton

    'Concept Video'

    A 'Concept Video' is all very nice, but how are we supposed to actually evaluate the real-world potential performance capabilities without Playmobil?

  11. Mike Moyle

    Re: Black Pudding

    @AC -- 11:45 GMT

    "The first choice of weapon for disciples of the little-known Lancastrian martial art of Ecky-Thump."


    So they want to make it a war of nutrition, do they...?


  12. Zmodem


    stick a reactor on it. and its back to heatrods/rings in turbo jets. with more mesh in the graphite titanium alloy hull acting as a super cooled hypersonic fridge

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Been done?

    I admit this is in the realms of the tin foil hat brigade, but it's possible that funding was cut because the project does not offer enough of a benefit over existing, secret aircraft?

    One of the aspects of interest to me is the "pulse detonation engine" that this hypothetical aircraft is alleged to use. Its meant to leave a contrail that has equidistant doughnut rings and I have seen a contrail with these rings. I'd be grateful if any readers point out more plausible explanations for this type of contrail?

  14. Ron Christian

    not necessarily canceled

    Were the project to go underground, it would look to the outside world as if it were canceled. I wouldn't count it out.

    On the other hand, it seems like it's become more and more difficult for governments to accomplish anything without getting buried in their own bureaucracy.

  15. goggyturk

    Pushing the boundaries

    As Matt said, anything is possible. The spec is challenging, but no more so than that for the A-12 (pre SR-71) in the 1950s. But the concept for the engine is a bit clumsy - at some point the turbines will have to be bypassed, which is really difficult to do efficiently. Maybe some kind of combo pulse technology / clever thermodynamic trick can be used for this bit.

    But I expect none of this will become reality because the rise of cheap suborbital flight will make it all an irrelevance.

    PS love the video, I kept expecting the air hostesses to make the safety announcements at the end of it. Either that or the Discovery Wings logo to appear.

  16. corestore
    Thumb Up

    A British invention, don't you know?

    Cancelled again, nearly 50 years after the first time around...

    "Prof. Terence Nonweiler invented the Waverider re-entry vehicle, which was to have been the man-carrying spacecraft for Britain's space programme based on Blue Streak and cancelled by Harold 'Macmillan in 1960. He was then at Queen's College, Belfast, and became Professor of Aerodynamics and Fluid Mechanics at Glasgow University in 1962, later Dean of the Faculty of Engineering..."


  17. Dom

    Supercruise considered impossible?

    Not for a long time; first achieved in the fifties, it was an essential part of Concorde's design - and that was a sixties design.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    @Matt Bryant

    FFS, not every aeronautical development comes from the US of bloody A. In fact, very few do. It's just the Yanks throw more money at them than anybody else - much of it spent to "acquire" (or try to) the patent(s) for the technology.

    The English Electric Lightning, designed during the 1950s and flown by the RAF during the 1960s and 1970s, could achieve supersonic speeds in level flight without using afterburner. The over-rated F22 is not the first aircraft to achieve this, despite what the Americans say. The difference is that the F22 can reach Mach 2+ whereas the Lightning could only manage about M1.5 without 'burner.

    And many of the other "inventions" claimed for the Raptor are, um, somewhat dubious to put it mildly. First aircraft with full voice integration? Nah. First with helmet-mounted displays and target acquisition/designation? Nah. First to use datalinking to share situational awareness between the entire 'wing'? Nah.

    (And anyone else think it quite amusing that the F22 is not allowed to play with the other guys at Red Flag? Allegedely to prevent anyone else discovering the 'exact' capabilities of the USAF's new toy, it also saved it from getting shown up by the Su-27s the Indians took. Should be even more fun whan the gen.2 Gripens and Eurofighter Typhoons get to go and play... )

  19. Power Pentode
    Black Helicopters

    Re: Been done?

    FWIW, Ben Rich (Lead skunk works dude for the F-117 and other stuff) swears that Aurora was simply the development code name for the D-21 drone project. The D-21 was not very successful. IIRC, there is a D-21 and an SR-71 in the Seattle Museum of Flight.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Two things

    @ twelvebore: You would be absolutely correct.

    @ Mike Richards: Exactly, there are plenty of "holes" in the US budget which could continue to feed this project cash. Various and assorted unnamed projects, slush funds, etc etc.

    The one constant in regards to the government is their ability to find a way to fund even the most outlandish projects if they really want to.

  21. Claire Rand
    Thumb Up



    didn't the EE lightning manage supercruise a while back?

    ok it had the range of a dead kipper but it managed it.

  22. Greg Kerr
    Thumb Up

    @ LP

    Tasty sentence

  23. Zmodem


    get just over mach3.5 in the mid 60s

  24. Mr Mark V Thomas

    Re:@ Matt Bryant

    The F-22 is not allowed to be exported either, much to Japan's chagrin, as they've asked the U.S Government several times to be allowed to buy it, in order to counter Mainland China's purchace/licenced manafacture of Su-27's, but have been refused each time...

    Rumour has it, that the Japanese are now very intrested in the Eurofighter Typhoon as a F-4 replacement, as the Japanese are unlikely to get the US'es preferred next generation aircraft for export, the F/A-35 until 2014-2016...

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