Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Report shows US in danger of falling behind in hypersonics

Four years ago, the US was on the brink of developing a new family of hypersonic weapons, based on the X-51A. Now, a classified report has come out that states the US is in very real danger of falling farther and farther behind in the quest for hypersonic weapons systems. Both Russia and China have tested new hypersonic vehicles, multiple times, and have others under development. Meanwhile the US doesn't plan to fly another vehicle until 2019, if it stays on schedule, and doesn't plan full rate development until the 2030 timeframe.

Less than four years ago, it seemed that the U.S. Air Force was on the brink of developing the first generation of air-breathing high-speed strike weapons following the success of the experimental scramjet-powered Boeing X-51A. Now a classified report warns that the U.S. may be losing its lead in hypersonics to China and Russia.

Although parallel research on hypersonic glide vehicles under DARPA’s HTV-2 program suffered failures in 2010 and 2011, the Air Force by 2013 appeared enthusiastic about weaponizing the maturing air-breathing technology demonstrated in the X-51A flight tests. After more than five decades of development and testing in high-speed flight, the U.S. finally looked set to become the undisputed leader in hypersonics.

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