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Thursday, May 23, 2013

'Hypersonic weapons likely to hit battlefield by 2025'

US military officials say high-tech weapons may be flying through the skies at five times the speed of sound by the middle of the next decade.

According to military officials, it depends on continued research into hypersonic vehicles like the Air Force's X-51A Waverider, which completed its final test flight earlier this month, reports Fox News.

Charlie Brink, X-51A program manager for the Air Force Research Laboratory Aerospace Systems Directorate, said the Air Force is trying to get the technologies mature enough that in the 2020 timeframe they would like to be able to show the warfighter that they would be ready to start a development program of record around that time.

Typical cruise missiles travel at around 500 to 600 mph, Brink said.

There are obvious advantages to ramping up to hypersonic flight, which is generally defined as anything that reaches at least Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. The US military has been researching ways to achieve a rapid strike capability.

On May 01, the Waverider was carried aloft by a B-52 bomber and released over the Pacific Ocean off the California coast. The vehicle accelerated to Mach 4.8 using a solid rocket booster, then reached Mach 5.1 with its air-breathing supersonic combustion ramjet (scramjet) engine before crashing into the sea as planned.

While the military has no plans to resurrect the X-51A, another hypersonic program may well follow in the vehicle's footsteps soon. A lot of work still needs to be done before hypersonic scramjets first see action in battle, but the technology shows great promise, officials said.

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