Bosses of the Air Force have revealed plans for a hypersonic aircraft that would take passengers from London to New York in as little as one hour. The plan is to have the aircraft in the sky by 2023 and could first be used for the transportation of equipment and weapons. Eventually the technology could be used in the creation of planes carrying passengers and the WaveRider prototype has taken to the air four times already hitting speeds of Mach 5.1.
[Image Courtesy of EPA]
Mica Endsley, the Air Force Chief Scientist said that the Air Force along with DARPA, hope to have the hypersonic planes by 2023. They said that Scramjets are airbreathing aircraft as they only carry hydrogen fuel instead of fuel and oxygen needed for the acceleration. They pull oxygen that they need from the atmosphere. The air is then forced into the engine and when hydrogen is injected into the airstream, the gases compress and this causes the temperature to rise and this is when ignition happens.
[Image Courtesy of Air Force]
This then generates a lot of thrust which allows the jet to travel in excess of the top speed currently held by the Concorde; this is in excess of 1,350mph. Endsley pointed out that the X-51 was proof of a concept test and it showed that it was possible to take a scram jet engine and launch it off an aircraft and it would go hypersonic. It was said that it did go over Mach 5 and then it ran out of fuel.
Bosses had hoped that they would have the system ready for testing by 2020 but said that they are now hoping that the Air Force would have the knowledge within five years to make decisions using the technology.
[Image Courtesy of EPA]
The hypersonic plane could carry a smallish conventional warhead and it would become a hypersonic weapon that could be used as a stand-off missile. This would mean that the military would be able to strike targets from a distance that was safe and there would be no putting the aircraft or its pilots at risk.
Unmanned aircraft have been developed for the use of the US Air Force and these have already gone supersonic when in test flights along the Southern California coast with them flying over five times the speed of sound. The X-15A WaveRider took to the skies for over three minutes using power from the exotic scramjet engine and it hit speeds of Mach 5.1. The Air Force has spent more than $300 million on the studies of scramjet technology and this could be used for making strikes around the world in minutes.
[Image Courtesy of DARPA]
The Advanced Hypersonic Weapon is one part of a program for the creation of missiles that will be used for the destruction of targets anywhere around the globe within hours as it could travel at more than 3,500 miles. This same tech could be put to use to revolutionise air travel.
The Air Force Research Laboratory program manager Charlie Brink said that the missile shaped WaveRider had been released from a B-52 bomber about 50,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean and had been accelerated by a rocket prior to the scramjet kicking in. In less than 60 seconds it had reach Mach 4.8 and when separated from the booster, the engine of the scramjet was ignited and this accelerated the craft to Mach 5.1 at 60,000 feet. It then plunged into the ocean after the flight ended after travelling more than 230 miles in 6 minutes. The Air Force plans on continuing their research into hypersonic flights.