US Experimental Military Aircraft Hits Hypersonic Speed
An unmanned US military aircraft has flown more than five times faster than the speed of sound in a “breakthrough” flight experiment, the US Air Force said Friday.
The aircraft, known as the X-51A Waverider, reached a speed of Mach 5.1 in a test flight over the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday, traveling more than 230 nautical miles (426 kilometers) in just over six minutes, the US Air Force said in a statement on its website.
The cruiser was carried into the air tucked under the wing of a B52 bomber and released at an elevation of around 50,000 feet (15,240 meters), after which a rocket booster powered it to Mach 4.8 in 26 seconds, the US Air Force said.
Its supersonic ramjet then pushed the aircraft to Mach 5.1 at 60,000 feet (18,288 meters) before it plunged into the ocean as planned, according to the statement.
Any speed above Mach 5 is generally referred to as “hypersonic.”
The test was the last – and the longest – of four experimental flights of the aircraft, which the US Air Force has touted as a key achievement in advancing technology to deliver high-speed weapons strikes around the world.
Source: WASHINGTON, RIA Novosti News – 3 May 2013
Photo: The U.S. Air Force X-51A Waverider aircraft tucked under the wing of a B-52 bomber. (Photo by U.S. Air Force)