AF Seeks Partnership with DARPA to Pursue Hypersonic Flight

AF Seeks Partnership with DARPA to Pursue Hypersonic Flight

The Air Force has partnered with the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, or DARPA, to advance hypersonic flight and launch a new joint developmental effort, service officials said.

The initiative, now being finalized, is designed to build upon the heels of a successful May 1 flight 60,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean wherein the X-51A Waverider demonstrator aircraft accelerated to Mach 5.1.

The new program is designed to advance the research and capabilities of hypersonic flight following the May 1 demonstration or test flight, said Air Force Chief Scientists Dr. Mica Endsley.

Air Force officials have said hypersonic flight could revolutionize future aircraft to include the next generation bomber the service plans to keep developing. Service leaders don’t intend to incorporate scramjet engines on the first iterations, but hypersonic flight is being considered for future versions.

“We had a very successful flight with X-51, showing hypersonic speeds. We’re currently setting up a follow-on program on that with DARPA that will be a joint Memorandum of Understanding,” Endsley told Military​.com in an interview.

Endsley praised the May 1 flight and said the new Air Force-DARPA effort would examine what potential next-steps could advance the capability and bring it closer to something, ultimately, with operational potential.

The May 1 test flight, which wound up being the longest air-breathing hypersonic flight ever, wrapped up a $300 million technology demonstration program going back to 2004, according to an Air Force statement.

The X-51A took off from the Air Force Test Center at Edwards AFB, Calif., under the wing of B-52H Stratofortress. It was released at approximately 50,000 feet and accelerated to Mach 4.8 in about 26 seconds powered by a solid rocket booster. After separating from the booster, the cruiser’s supersonic combustion ramjet, or scramjet, engine then lit and accelerated the aircraft to Mach 5.1 at 60,000 feet, according to the Air Force.

The vehicle continued to send back data even after it rand out of fuel and splashed down into the ocean. About 370 seconds of data was collected from the experiment.

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Nice, I like r&d spending on things other than ‘paper planes’. Keep the engineers occupied (always necessary) and keeps pushing the boundries of physics. I just hope the US also finds some money (look in the pockets of the rich) to invest in schools, from toddlers up, to keep that steady stream of new engineers going. Importing from India and China might not be the best place for rocket/scramjet engineering. Think of all the spies/going back to share their info etc. Need your own people, black brown and white to do it.

The USAF should’ve been working on this stuff with DARPA anyway.

Since 1970 inflation adjusted education spending has doubled with ZERO positive test results. We need to figure out how to get better results for the money we already spend.

The X-51 was boosted to Mach 4.8 using good old fashioned and reliable rocket power. How about we develop a rocket powered strike missile as an interim solution while we work on air-breathing scramjets for future weapons applications.

Need a fast strike missile now.

Why do you NEED that? Don’t you have the biggest fleet in the world filled with tomahawks etc? Or the biggest bomber force in the world to deliver them? Who is the number 2 you’re trying to ‘stay ahead of’? A one nation arms race?

That’s precicely the idea. You have too few engineers now, and too few coming online and too many retiring.

With this type of technology you do not look to better what something someone else is developing and/or operating. If it were the case, the Russians and Chinese would be way ahead of the US. You don’t develop such weapons, just because someone else has something equal or better, you do it to solve a particular tactical/strategic problem. With Hypersonics, you are looking at overcoming A2AD solutions and being able to deliver prompt strike on time critical targets. Tomohawk may not be bested (yet) but it is useless if you want to penetrate a2AD environ with impunity or deliver a strike within a few minutes (its slow and takes forever to reach its target)…

Why do you NEED to be a troll — and a FAILURE at that? Nice job, er not so much

Spot on, we can’t seem to find enough money to pay our bills but we can invest in crap we don’t need, very sad

When do we start using this technology for civilian use. It takes 20+ hours to get to Australia these days. Let’s cut that down to 4 or 5 hours.


any type of energy used = time traveled = energy spent = money spent = time used wisely . My question is are “We” spending are time wisely by looking at a technology that just delivers a weapons payload or should this be also use to send payloads into space?
brian helip

All negative comments. You all sound like Navy guys. You do not like anything that goes fast. Jack

Rockets can’t burn nearly as long as an air breathing engine due to the weight and volume of the oxidizer in addition to the fuel. The article said the rocket just burned for 28 seconds. Even the huge Space Shuttle solid rocket boosters could only burn for 2 minutes.

Yawn another drone I want to see the first manned Hypersonic flight vehicles made!

The government’s great new plan is to combine the efforts to pay defense contractors a profit on hypersonic R&D. Now I don’t have a crystal ball, but in past projects I’ve worked on where my company made a profit on R&D we milked that sucker for years, each year showing just enough progress to keep the money flowing. Gee, you don’t think the same thing could possibly happen here, do you?

It occurs to me that right now we don’t have any aircraft that operate routinely at supersonic speeds. It seems odd that we’d need to step up our hypersonic research when there is clearly a huge hole in our supersonic capability.

You can’t. Not enough American engineers, and even if so, American CEO’s are too greedy to do something like that. You went at it with the Boeing SST (too amitious) and failed (congress withdrew money). Sad sad, you had the xb-70 Valkyrie, the most amazing fixed wing aircraft ever to be produces, only to cancel it (ICBM’s came online).

I believe space access is one of the long term goals for hypersonic aircraft. For now, though, we need to start small and work out quite a few engineering challenges. Rockets started out being quite unreliable and only delivering small warheads, but were eventually scaled up and reliable enough to send stuff to the Moon. Just wait, this tech has a big future ahead of it.

How About you add an Extra Engine To the Delta 4 Rocket Try To See if you Can push the Engines To warp 1.5

In the US, like Europe, there is a glut of engineers and scientists.

It is a myth to say otherwise. I’m sick of the ignorant spreading this myth.

He’s right, it’s fine for a research program but completely un-necessary when all you ever attack is Tier 2 or Tier 3 countries. It’s not like this country will ever get in a shooting war with anyone who could hit back.

I heard that’s been an old idea knocked aside, so to speak. Adding another rocket motor to the Delta would create too much vibration.

The leaders of this country are afraid of offering “True Freedom” to the middle classes by championing Excellence in Education. All the dumbing down of education to the masses has accomplished, is a country of hamburger flippers. Most and in some cases all of the engineers I hire are foreign nationals that are very selective where their children are schooled here in the US, no delusions there. Free Us, the only hope for the poor from the projects is a real, competitive education; not the spoon fed, baby sitting that manifests it’s ugly head every day in the public classroom. Demand that the lazy, useless, ignorant teachers and students be denied the opportunity to disrupt the only hope for a future for our country. God Bless America

I am sure there will be enough engineers puled out of camps all over the woreld.Like in most war torn countries the best and highlly trained,and end up in US as the former East bloc Docs take seated in western europe.some still learning there languages.

That is starting small, first hypersonic flight, then about five times the speed of light…the next thing you know, we’ll be visiting other planets. it’s progressive.

The money is there, thats just the lies right wing politicians tell(we have no money), and I say that because they are the ones thats been saying, “The Country is Broke”. This Country, and every State in the Union, collect taxes every year to pay for stuff like this, if we don’t have the money, where is all the tax money they collect going?

We still are standing on the sholders of the engineers from Germany. I do not think they were black or brown.

The Noth American X-15 went to Mach 6.7 in the 1960’s with a man in it. http://​en​.wikipedia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​N​o​r​t​h​_​A​m​e​r​i​c​a​n​_​X​-15

This is mere window dressing. Rockwell– NAA, Boeing and most especially Lockheed Martin were working on Mach 17-capable air breathers over two decades ago, including field propulsion technology that saw its first successful flights in the mid-1960’s. All still classified so black that, according to the late Ben Rich, it would take “an act of God” before it would ever see the light of day. I worked on the conceptual art for some of that hardware myself. In 1986, L-M already had an aircraft that was capable of doing 12,000MPH in the trans-atmosphere or could light an internal rocket engine to go exo-atmospheric and loiter indefinitely over a target country, while carrying up to 121 nuclear or conventionally armed re-entry vehicles. It was remotely piloted. That system known as the Lockheed “Pulser”- within a family of aircraft known as the Aurora Program was what brought Gorbechev to the table with Reagan in 1986 in Iceland and led to Glasnost and Perestroika and the eventual 1989 fall of the Soviet Union, but not before they engineered a Nobel Peace Prize for Gorbechev.

How about to Europe„„,in 1 +hours„,wowwwwwwwwwww God bless USA„„,

First you have to develop a reliable engine, then you tailor it to particular needs. Just like in ww2 for example with RR Merlin engine. You develop it for the spitfire or just a fighter program, then you put it on a spitfire works great , twin engine mosquito needs engines OK put it on that, bomber needs good engine OK you put four on the “Lank” . You first have to develop it, then make it reliable enough to “man rate it”, put it on a man rated platform , then get in and hang on !!!

I believe hypersonics require air.

It’s called an ICBM.


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