US military to test hypersonic jet X-51A
Updated: 2012-08-14 10:53
A superfast jet that could fly from L.A. to New York City in less than an hour may be one step closer to reality after a key test this week， the Los Angeles Times reported.
The X-51A WaveRider, an unmanned aircraft that could reach speeds up to Mach 6 will be launched from the wing of a B-52 bomber high above the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, said the report.
X-51 [File photo]
The WaveRider is expected to zip up into the atmosphere and fly at hypersonic speeds -3,600 mph - for 300 seconds, before breaking up into the ocean.
If successful, if would be the longest jaunt for the test aircraft. The newspaper noted that the development of WaveRider could lead to progress on a passenger jet that could theoretically travel across the US in 46 minutes.
Aerospace engineers say that harnessing technology capable of sustaining hypersonic speeds is crucial to the next generation of missiles, military aircraft, spacecraft - and even passenger planes.
"Attaining sustained hypersonic flight is like going from propeller-driven aircraft to jet aircraft," Robert A. Mercier, deputy for technology in the high speed systems division at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Ohio told the L.A. Times.
The Pentagon said it spent about $2 billion on technology and engineering around hypersonic flight over the last decade, the Times reports. This program is estimated to cost $140 million, according to Globalsecurity.org, a military policy research website.