U.S. Air Force to develop new hypersonic jet

The U.S. Air Force is looking to create a new hypersonic aircraft, building upon the success of hypersonic scramjet X-51A's test flight in 2013. Hypersonic is more than just breaking the sound barrier. Hypersonic speeds are classified as Mach 5 through Mach 10, which is approximately five to ten times faster than the speed of sound. Hypersonic aircraft are so fast that a traditionally five-hour flight from Los Angeles to NYC would be cut down to, roughly, 30 minutes. These hypersonic flights are for unmanned aircraft and weapons, only. To reach these speeds, the acceleration is too much for humans to withstand.

Mica Endsley, Chief Scientist at the U.S. Air Force revealed that developing the next hypersonic aircraft is about more than a Mach 5+ engine.

"What they are trying to do now is build the whole system so that it is not just about the engine. You have to have materials that can operate at the kind of temperatures you have when you are going at hypersonic speeds. You have to have guidance systems that will function when you are going at those types of speeds. There are a bunch of technological challenges that have to be addressed to make a functioning system that will work."

After initial development costs, hypersonic air vehicles could be far less expensive to manufacture than traditional jets which feature turbine engines because the hypersonic engines have fewer parts. The Air Force and DARPA are aiming to have a new hypersonic aircraft created by 2023.

The US Air Force's previous hypersonic jet broke the world record for the longest hypersonic flight. You can take a look at the actual flight and take off from the wing of another plane, here.

Source: Miltary.com