Fox News on September 8, 2013, published a LiveScience report on the U.S. Air Force teaming up with the military’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) on a new project to test the capabilities of hypersonic flight, according to military officials. Excerpts below:
The experimental program is in the process of being finalized, and aims to advance research on hypersonic flight, including building upon the knowledge gained from the Air Force’s $300 million X-51A Waverider program, which began in 2004.
The unmanned X-51A successfully completed the program’s final flight on May 1, reaching a top speed of Mach 5.1 (more than five times the speed of sound) and traveling more than 230 nautical miles in just over 6 minutes before its planned crash-landing in the Pacific Ocean.
The test flight was the longest-ever for a hypersonic vehicle of this kind, Air Force officials said at the time.
The May test flight used the last of the Air Force’s four X-51A vehicles, which were constructed by Boeing. There are no current plans to build additional aircraft, but the new program between the Air Force and DARPA will be designed to build on the results of the X-51A program, including examining ways to bring hypersonic technology closer to operation, according to Air Force Chief Scientist Mica Endsley.
“We had a very successful flight with X-51, showing hypersonic speeds,” Endsley told Military.com . “We’re currently setting up a follow-on program on that with DARPA that will be a joint Memorandum of Understanding.”
Hypersonic technology could be used to develop new weapons and planes capable of reaching targets anywhere on Earth within short periods of time, U.S. military officials have said.
DARPA has also conducted hypersonic test flights with the agency’s own HTV hypersonic bomber prototype in the past. In August 2011, the HTV glider reached Mach 20 before losing control.