Military plans new hypersonic flight after failure

Oct 24, 2012

(AP)—The U.S. military said Wednesday it is planning another unmanned hypersonic flight in the wake of a failed attempt.

The flight, scheduled for next spring or summer, would be the fourth test of the experimental X-51A Waverider designed to reach Mach 6, or 3,600 mph (5,793 kph), after being dropped by a B-52 bomber.

The Air Force has been studying hypersonic technologies with the hopes of deploying fast strikes around the globe.

Two months ago, a problem with a control fin during the third flight caused an X-51A to lose balance and crash off the Southern California coast.

Though the aircraft successfully detached from the B-52 and ignited its rocket booster to fly to Mach 4.8, it became unstable and did not activate its exotic scramjet engine—considered the key feature of the test.

An investigation ruled out software or power failures. Signs point to a "random vibration issue," though more work is needed to pinpoint the exact cause, said program manager Charlie Brink at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

None of flights so far has reached the intended goal of six times the speed of sound. During the first flight in 2010, an X-51A flew near Mach 5 for three minutes. A test flight last year ended prematurely with an X-51A unsuccessfully trying to restart its engine.

Brink said he expected the military to continue hypersonic flight research after next year's final flight but did not get into specifics.

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Lurker2358
3 / 5 (7) Oct 24, 2012
Once we have this thing working properly, I wonder if and under what circumstances it would actually be deployed?

Ordinary drones are re-usable and can land and be refueled and re-armed.

Fast strikes around the world? What the heck, leading up to the second Iraq war the U.S. was like "weeeeee're coooooming...weeeeee're cooooming...weeeeeee're coooooming..." for two years before they even decided to do anything.

Oh yes, if we actually employed common sense military strategies and tactics, this device could be very useful in some situations, but our government rarely, if ever, employs those tacts, and most of them require such short notice that it would be an "executive decision" at the Presidential level or even the general or mid-grade officer level to be practical, which isn't likely to happen either.

So what's the point?

"Weeeeeeee're coooooming Afghanistan.."
"weeeeee're cooooooming Iraq..."
"Weeeeee're coooming Lybia..."

Seriously, we never do anything "quickly".
verkle
2.7 / 5 (3) Oct 24, 2012
I really hope they get it right this time.
Either way, they are still learning from their mistakes. Like I do many times.
javjav
4 / 5 (1) Oct 24, 2012
Yeah, but enemies are faster and attack by surprise, and then you need fast response.. Also a plane fthat is faster than enemy missiles is nearly invincible. Not to mention low cost space launches if you don't need to bring the oxidizer tank to accelerate up to
match 15 , for example., then release a small rocket from that point , and let the ramjet come back for reusing it.
Tuxford
1.5 / 5 (8) Oct 24, 2012
There is need for an unclassified fast-response missile threat that can be used to bully enemies around the world. The classified means no doubt exists, but is no good for bullying.
Lurker2358
1.7 / 5 (6) Oct 24, 2012
jayjay:

I'm not saying it's useless. It's just our limp wristed PC policies won't make the best uses of it anyway.

Although ironically, what does it say that a democrat president, the first African American president, had the audacity to raid another country in a kill/capture mission! Now that actually was ballsy of President Obama, but I doubt this machine would be used in such a situation either, because in such cases you want to be able to verify the primary target was actually killed.

So I suppose it would be used purely on the most reliable counter-terrorism intelligence, because we have more reliable conventional warfare tools.

Yes, it could be used as an anti-ship weapon as well, but we don't have very many "active" enemies with a significant navy anyway, still if you made a few hundred of them, and combine with satellites, you can theoretically wipe out an entire enemy navy without putting your own ships at risk. i.e. Iranians, but we haven't had navy vs navy wars in ages..
javjav
1 / 5 (1) Oct 24, 2012
This thing would be faster if it could ionize air ahead of it and use magnetic fields to throw it out of his way, thus creating a temporal void in front of it . ESA tested similar technology for ATV re-entries using superconductor magnets , but nothing was said about it
Deathclock
4 / 5 (4) Oct 24, 2012
This thing would be faster if it could ionize air ahead of it and use magnetic fields to throw it out of his way, thus creating a temporal void in front of it . ESA tested similar technology for ATV re-entries using superconductor magnets , but nothing was said about it


I was with you until you called it a "temporal void"... there is nothing temporal about it, it would merely be creating a low pressure region in front of itself... I doubt the air could be moved out of the way though, both the speed needed to move it in time and the force needed to create a near vacuum in the atmosphere would be major hurdles and anything capable of this would likely add so much weight to the craft that the benefit is completely negated.
Frostiken
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 24, 2012
This thing would be faster if it could ionize air ahead of it and use magnetic fields to throw it out of his way, thus creating a temporal void in front of it . ESA tested similar technology for ATV re-entries using superconductor magnets , but nothing was said about it


A temporal void? Maybe, if your hypersonic vehicle was a DeLorean and hypersonic was 88 MPH...
Frostiken
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 24, 2012
Anyway, I don't think this is really for a specific purpose, but just to have another tool in the box ready to use. If Iran were to trot out a missile, had it gassed up and ready to fire at Israel, our options are very limited.

- Tactical aircraft strike. Not feasible on short notice, very risky and costly.

- Tactical missile strike. Long-range, but very slow and highly susceptible to anti-air defenses.

- Wait for missile to launch and try to shoot it down. Not really an option, even though I'm pretty sure our ballistic missile defense is a lot better than we're letting on.

You would need a long-range, smart weapon that could penetrate deep into enemy territory without risk of being shot down. The closest you can get now are ballistic missiles which are very easy to detect and would exacerbate the problem.

Unless we're going to go for the 'rods from god' approach, the X-51 seems pretty good.

Also, this technology has obvious benefits to civilain applications.
Lurker2358
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 25, 2012
This thing would be faster if it could ionize air ahead of it and use magnetic fields to throw it out of his way, thus creating a temporal void in front of it . ESA tested similar technology for ATV re-entries using superconductor magnets , but nothing was said about it


Such a machine was theorized in a popular mechanics (or was it popular science?) article in the mid 1990's.

Supposedly, it would use shaped magnetic fields and ionized gases to propel itself through the atmosphere at speeds as high as Mach 25.

One of the obvious problems which was probably never solved would be how to generate enough energy for the device, in particular since the military and nasa both canned their various nuclear powered aircraft and nuclear powered rocket programs due to a combination of international treaties as well as fear of collateral damage.

Noumenon
4.4 / 5 (48) Oct 25, 2012


I'm not saying it's useless. It's just our limp wristed PC policies won't make the best uses of it anyway.


I believe that's what happened in benghazi,.... the Obama admin rejected multiple calls for added security there because liberals naively think a strong security presence would be insulting to the Lynians because it demonstrates mistrust. When they watched the attack occur in real time, they presumed it was innocent protestors demonstrating against the video, but soon realized it was a planned terrorist attack,... then proceeded to cover it up, by blaming the anti-muslim video,... (rather than the freedom of speech that the Obama admin was sworn to protect).


Noumenon
4.5 / 5 (47) Oct 25, 2012
Although ironically, what does it say that a democrat president, the first African American president, had the audacity to raid another country in a kill/capture mission! Now that actually was ballsy of President Obama,


A third grader could have made that decision. In fact had he NOT took out bin laden or had asked permission from Pakastan, and bin laden got away, he would have been finished. Recall Bush got hosed politically when bin laden got away in the hills because evidently they let the afghans go after him for some reason.
ScottyB
not rated yet Oct 25, 2012
for a low cost space vehicle check out Skylon
http://www.reacti...bre.html
Yenaldlooshi
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 25, 2012
The Chinese are secretly developing something similar but they say it will only be used to expedite delivery of Chinese Take Out!

Nothing worse than cold Chinese food!
neutrino64
not rated yet Oct 25, 2012
...or it might be used (heave forbid) for non-military applications that don't involve killing people. But I guess that's not useful these days.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Oct 29, 2012
So what's the point?

There are still some people who think that wars can be won by remote strikes (be it with aircraft, missiles or drones). That this doesn't mesh with reality should be amply clear by now.
Nevertheles some people make a lot of money advertising, building (and exporting) new weapons systems. So it is their interest to foster such a belief. And any general who argues this way is sure to get a cushy retirement job on the board of directors of some defense contractor or other.

Of course this is not a 'response' type of weapon but a 'first strike' type of weapon. So there are the usual political advantages to be had from it (speak softly, carry a big stick) and the usual disadvantages (if you carry a big stick you're a bully - no matter whether you use it or not. I.e. the world hates you. But the US has gone down that road so far already there's really not much more hate that they could generate at this point)