> our title:

Futuristic Waverider UAV Points to Hypersonic Missiles

> original title:

A Missile That Could Get Around the World In An Hour

(Source: British Forces News; issued July 7, 2016)


Radical new missile technology is being developed by a consortium of US defence organisations. The hypersonic X-51A Waverider is due to go into service in 2025, but the experimental unmanned aircraft from which it will be developed has already been built and put through testing.

The US military believes hypersonic speeds will allow it "to strike virtually anywhere on the face of the Earth within 60 minutes".

Designated as the X-51 in 2005, the Waverider completed its first test flight in 2010, then its first successful hypersonic flight in 2013 (hypersonic is roughly defined as a flight that is five times faster than the speed of sound, also known as Mach 5+).

It's so named because it compresses air from its own forward motion, and rides on its own shockwaves.

For the test flight, it was taxied into place at 15,000 metres by a B-52H Stratofortress.

The missile combines expertise from the US Air Force, DARPA, NASA, Boeing, and Aerojet Rocketdyne, and the US Air Force says it anticipates:

"The X-51A program will provide a foundation of knowledge required to develop the game-changing technologies needed for future access to space and hypersonic weapon applications."

"For example, hypersonic speeds on the order of flying 600 nautical miles in 10 minutes may provide the ability to accurately engage a long-distance target very rapidly."

The X-51A represents a reinvestment and recommitment to hypersonic flight, which, unbelievably, was already achieved by an aircraft in the 1960s.

The X-15 was, by contrast, manned, though was similarly a blend of aircraft and rocket technology.

As of September 2015, the X-15 is the record-holder for a manned, powered aircraft with an incredible top speed of 4,520 miles per hour (Mach 6.72).

The Chinese, meanwhile, have also been developing their own hypersonic missile program, which has allegedly seen test flights achieve speeds of between Mach 5 and Mach 10.

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