The U.S. Air Force and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are hoping to have a new hypersonic plane that will travel up to five times the speed of sound (Mach 5). The plane could be used to transport sensors, equipment or weaponry in the future.
According to Military.com, Air Force Chief Scientist Mica Endsley said the service wants to build upon the successful hypersonic test flight of the X-51 WaveRider 60,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean in May of 2013.
The Air Force and DARPA plan to have a new and improved hypersonic air vehicle by 2023.
The warp speed of today—Boeing’s X-51A WaveRider:
Ryan Helback, an official at the Air Force Research Laboratory, reportedly said: “We are the Air Force. What do we want to do with this technology? We want to weaponise it,” wrote the Mirror.
“X-51 was really a proof of concept test. It showed that you could get a scram jet engine, launch it off an aircraft, and it could go hypersonic. It was able to go more than Mach 5 until it ran out of fuel. It was a very successful test of an airborne hypersonic weapons system,” Endsley said.
Boeing X-51 WaveRider sets world record for longest hypersonic flight:
At its top speed, the X-51A covered 230 nautical miles in just six minutes. The data that the Air Force collected from the test-flight will aid the development of a superior model. However, passengers hoping to travel at such speeds will be disappointed. As hinted by Endsley, the X-51A is primarily an unmanned delivery plane, wrote the Inquisitr.
“Our goal is to make sure the Air Force has the knowledge in 2020 or over the next five years to be able to make acquisition decisions using this technology. You could then attack defensive targets, those heavily defended, or the time-critical targets in a very timely manner—if it’s a moving target, before it can move,” Kenneth Davidson, manager of the hypersonic materials development at the Air Force Research Laboratory, told Military.com.
Helbach said: “The follow-on program to this is the High Speed Strike Weapon effort. It’s taking a lot of the lessons learned and the technology, and moving to a weapons acquisition,” the Daily Mail added.
With China also testing hypersonic flights, this is setting up to be the new arms race.