And now for the latest in USA Military Tech.
An unmanned experimental aircraft designed to fly six times the speed of sound broke apart over the Pacific Ocean seconds into a military test flight due to a faulty control fin, the U.S. Air Force said on Wednesday. The problem with the fin on the craft known as the Waverider or X-51A was identified in a test flight on Tuesday, 16 seconds after a rocket booster on the remotely monitored craft was ignited to propel it forward. Fifteen seconds later, when the X-51A separated from the rocket booster, it lost control due to a faulty-control fin.The 31 seconds of flight fell far short of the military’s goal for the X-51A to fly for five minutes.
The aircraft broke apart immediately and fell into the Pacific Ocean near Point Mugu northwest of Los Angeles.
The Waverider was designed to reach speeds of Mach 6 or above, six times the speed of sound and fast enough to zoom from New York to London in less than an hour. The military has its eye on using the Waverider program to develop missiles with non-nuclear explosives that could strike anywhere in the world within an hour.
The cost of the experimental aircraft, which military officials said was dropped from a B-52 bomber before its rocket booster was ignited, has not been disclosed because many details of the program are classified. The aircraft is known as the Waverider because it stays airborne, in part, with lift generated by the shock waves of its own flight. The Boeing Co’s Phantom Works division performed design and assembly on the craft.
This was the third of four X-51A aircraft built for the military, one of which flew for over three minutes at nearly five times the speed of sound during a 2010 test flight.
The Waverider is part of efforts by the U.S. military to develop a prompt global strike capability to hit targets anywhere in the world within an hour. Over the years, the global strike program will likely eat up billions of dollars in development costs. If the program becomes operational, targets could include conventional military sites or militants.
A missile would likely not be fired from a vehicle like the X-51A, but the craft itself would be the missile.
That the test flight crashed early due to a problem with a fin would likely be frustrating for the military because that part was relatively easy to build, unlike the largely untested Scramjet engine
which uses the forward motion of the craft to compress air for fuel combustion.