Wednesday, October 15, 2008

DARPA cancels hypersonic Blackswift

DARPA and the Air Force requested $120M in FY09 for the joint hypersonic demonstrator program called Blackswift, expected to lead eventually to a high-speed global reconnaissance capability missing since the SR-71 was retired and possibly other applications like hypersonic missiles and possibly even manned strike aircraft. Congress provided a total of $10M, basically because the project did not promise a near-term operational payoff, and DARPA pulled the plug.

COMMENT: To go on a rant here (in my "strictly private citizen's opinion" capacity) Congress has been shortsighted about projects like this since the 1980s. If it does not lead immediately (and at a perceived low cost) to a new capability, the legislative branch kills it. The 535 members of Congress seem collectively incapable of realizing that some technology investments take time to pay off, and DoD has been unwilling or unable to fight the long and difficult campaign to explain the promise of hypersonic technology and the need to invest in research that may take a decade or so to lead to a quantum leap in operational capabilities. Imaging the global recon and strike capability we could have had by now (not to mention the boon to commercial transport and civil space) if the National Aerospace Plane had been funded. It's sad and inexcusable.

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