The US Air Force Profession of Arms Center of Excellence (PACE) released a Youtube video titled ‘Heritage Today – ISR and Innovation’ which appears to showcase top secret US ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) projects. The short clip shows the evolution of the ISR mission since its beginning. It first depicts a flying RQ-4 Global Hawk and then the RQ-180 aircraft. The RQ-180 has been dubbed the ‘Great White Bat’ – and it is believed this model was spotted over the Philippines in 2021.
After this, a sleek and stealthy looking aircraft in a hanger appears, and seems to match the shape of the SR-71 successor – dubbed ‘Son of Blackbird’ – the Lockheed SR-72.
The SR-72 is an unmanned hypersonic intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and strike platform.
While little is known about this aircraft apart from rumoured sightings from time to time, the estimated date for a first flight is 2025.
The video also shows the outline of the secretive X-37B spaceplane in a display of what looks like a command centre.
Again, while this model has been kept a secret, there has been speculation the X-37B is a space-based weapons platform which can be pre-deployed into orbit armed with a weaponised re-entry vehicle. Theories suggest this could be released over or near a specific target.
But most analysts have rejected this theory.
Others believe it could be used as a platform for gathering intelligence.
This could include signals intelligence such as activities of communications and surveillance satellites – both civilian and military.
Analysts believe this is the most realistic explanation.
Earlier this week, Russia sent a chilling threat to NATO after warning it could blow up 32 of its satellites.
Russian state television claimed Moscow’s anti-satellite (ASAT) missiles could obliterate the NATO satellites, “blind all their missiles, planes and ships, not to mention the ground forces”.
The warning was a response to Washington’s “serious concerns” about the build-up of 100,000 Russian troops at the Ukraine-Russian border, with Joe Biden now considering providing Ukraine with military assistance.
Russia had already enraged the US when it conducted an ASAT missile test last week which sent 1500 pieces of space debris whizzing past the International Space Station. This move forced NASA astronauts to hide out in their spaceships.
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And tension between China and the US is heating up too, after the US said it would step in with military support for Taiwan if Beijing decides to attack.
China launched into orbit two powerful Gaofen satellites which reportedly have similar optical capabilities to the US Keyhole-class classified spy satellites.
And, worryingly for the US, China and Russia’s alliance in space appears to be strengthening.
Tracey German, professor in conflict and security for King’s College London, told Express.co.uk: “They [Russia and China] have already set out plans to work together in space, announcing plans to jointly build an international lunar research station earlier this year.
“Since 2014, China has become an increasingly important partner for Russia, and they have developed a strategic partnership, primarily driven by economic and military cooperation, particularly arms sales and joint/multilateral military exercises, and China is an important market for Russian gas.”