US Testing Hypersonic Aircraft

Posted August 14th, 2012 at 9:20 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

The U.S. military is testing an unmanned aircraft over the Pacific Ocean Tuesday it hopes will go six times the speed of sound.

Edwards Air Force Base spokesman John Haire confirmed a B-52 plane took to the skies Tuesday with the experimental aircraft, but did not give any word on the status of the test flight.

The Air Force had said the experimental aircraft — the WaveRider — was to be dropped from the wing of a B-52 bomber at an altitude of about 15,000 meters. The test then calls for a solid rocket booster and the engine of the missile-shaped aircraft to accelerate its speed to more than 7,300 kilometers an hour, known as Mach 6.

The WaveRider could reach an altitude of 21,000 meters during its five-minute flight, and then splash into the ocean. The military says it has no plans to retrieve it. In an earlier test in May 2010, another aircraft reached five times the speed of sound, but the test ended early because of a technical problem.

U.S. defense officials see hypersonic aircraft as a way to significantly boost America's air power. Some day, the technology could also be used to drastically speed up commercial flights, leading to extraordinarily fast intercontinental flights of less than an hour between London and New York.